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ST. BERNARD, O.Cist. 

Doctor of the Church 



ST BERNARD'S 
SERMONS 

ON THE 

CANTICLE OF CANTICLES 

TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL LATIN 



BY 

A PRIEST OF MOUNT MELLERAY 



VOL. I. 



BROWNE AND NOLAN, LIMITED 

DUBLIN BELFAST CORK WATERFORP 



Canada Church Goods Ct. Ld> 

149 Church Streat 

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Nrtjti obstat: 

Fr. STANISLAUS HICKEY, O.C.R., 

Censor. 
Jan. 14, 1920. 

Imprimatur : 

% Fr. AUGUSTINUS MARRE, 

Ep. t. Constant. 
Abbas Generalis O.C.R. 
Jan. 18, 1920. 



Ntljil obstat: 

GULIELMUS BYRNE, S.T.L., 

Censor deputatus. 

Einprimt potest : 

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TO 

HE MOST REVEREND BERNARD HACKETT, D.D. 

LORD BISHOP OF WATERFORD AND LISMORE, 

THIS TRANSLATION OF THE SERMONS OF 
ST. BERNARD 

ON THE CANTICLE OF CANTICLES 
IS HUMBLY AND RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED. 



I. 



%%^MH 1 8 i£ 



TRANSLATOR^ PREFACE 

So far as I am aware, this is the first attempt on the 
)art of a Catholic to render St. Bernard's famous 
discourses on the Canticle of Canticles available for 
English readers. It is passing strange that it should 
)e so ; passing strange that the most important work, 
>erhaps, of him who has been called by excellence the 
Doctor of Love and the Prince of Mystics, should be 
,o neglected. But the Sermons on the Canticle are not 
angular in this respect. The same neglect has been 
i xtended to practically all the writings of the Melli- 
luous Doctor, with great loss to spirituality. The 
:ause of this is not easy to determine. Want of appro- 
bation it can hardly be. Surely no one could read those 
grandest of prose-poems, those sweetest of love-songs, 
^hich have been for ages the delight of religious souls 
Ind have nourished the piety of saints unnumbered, 
without feeling his heart touched and his mind illumined. 
But, whatever the explanation, the fact remains, and it 
loes not speak well for Catholic scholarship. For it 
B only by those of the household that St. Bernard has 
>een so forgotten. Non-Catholic writers have shown 
hemselves, if not more appreciative, at any rate, more 
ealous and enterprising. One cannot help feeling a 
ense of shame at beholding the elegant translations of 
fome of the Saint's more celebrated treatises, published 
Iven in our own times, by such Protestant scholars as 

Irs. Eales and Gardner. It looks as if, by a .strange 

vii 



viii TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

irony of fate, heresy had obtained a monopoly of the 
very man who, in his day, was its most formidable 
opponent. 

It would not be easy to exaggerate the influence, 
direct and indirect, of St. Bernard's writings on the 
religious history of the last eight centuries. According 
to Horstius, who wrote about 1679, they were more 
universally read, and republished more frequently, than 
the works of any other of the Fathers. Not alone have 
they served the Church as a powerful means of edifi- 
cation, but even many of the most beautiful devotions 
which adorn her liturgy and strengthen her hold on the 
hearts of her children, owe to them their inspiration 
or their popularity — such as the devotion to the Sacred 
Heart, to the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, to St. 
Joseph, to the Holy Angels, and the Guardian Angels 
in particular. Mystical and ascetical writers of every 
age, since their first publication, have found in them 
an inexhaustible mine of spiritual treasures, wherewith 
they have not hesitated to enrich their own composi- 
tions. Thus many of the brilliant epigrams and beau- 
tiful images which adorn the pages of popular authors 
are but borrowed plumes, derived from the works of 
St. Bernard. Sir Francis Cruise has shown how enor- 
mously the author of the Imitation is indebted to our 
Saint. His influence is also clearly discernible in the 
two other works which, in their various ways, had 
perhaps the largest share in moulding medieval thought, 
viz., St. Thomas's Summa Theologica and Dante's Divina 
Commedia. The same is true of the works of St. John 
of the Cross and St. Francis of Sales, the two great 
masters of the spiritual life most in favour with modern 
mystics. The highest honour which can be rendered to 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE ix 

any writer is the adoption of his words into the dog- 
matic system of Christ's infallible Church, which are 
thus, in some sense, put on a level with the inspired 
oracles of Holy Writ. According to the Abbe Ratisbon, 
such honour was paid to the writings of St. Bernard 
by the great Council of Trent, for in its authentic ex- 
position of the doctrine of justification it " reproduces 
his teaching almost word for word." 

As to the intrinsic excellence of those writings, it 
would, of course, be the height of presumption on my 
part to venture an opinion. But I think the reader 
will thank me if I present him with a few apprecia- 
tions from the pens of competent judges. They have 
been selected with a view to the greatest variety as 
regards age, nationality, and religious persuasion. 

Catholic Testimonies. 

I call to mind his holy and wonderful life, how he 
was endowed with a singular prerogative of grace, and 
not only did he possess in himself in an extraordinary 
degree the gifts of devotion and sanctity, but he also 
illustrated the universal Church of God with the light 
of his faith and his learning. — Pope Alexander III. 

By the acuteness of his genius, the sanctity of his 
life, and his knowledge of Sacred Scripture, he ren- 
dered most important service to the Universal Church. 
. . . With voice and pen he attacked and confounded 
the heretics of his time, and by his learning defended 
the Roman See against its assailants. — Pope Pius VIII. 

The works of St. Bernard have a flavour of admirable 
sweetness so that he is always read with a holy delight. 
— Cardinal Valerius. 

He was gifted with a sublime eloquence, and so rich 
in saintly wisdom and eminent in holiness, that while 
we garner his teaching we should make his life our 
model. Bernard, the great contemplative (altissimus 



x TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

contemplatcr), tasted all the sweetness of prayer ; 
if you, too, would find a relish in prayer, ruminate 
his words. Not only are they spiritual and heart- 
penetrating, but they are also exquisite in style and 
calculated to impel you to the service of God. — St. 

BONAVENTURE. 

In him we see gleaming the nine precious stones of 
which the Prophet Ezechiel speaks, by which are sig- 
nified the nine choirs of angels, for Bernard possessed 
the virtues and exercised the offices of all the angelic 
orders. His mouth was a chalice of purest gold, all 
studded with jewels, making the whole world drunk 
with the wine of its sweetness. — St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Blessed art thou, O honey-tongued Bernard, amongst 
all the Doctors of the Church, whose soul was mar- 
vellously enlightened by the eternal splendours of the 
Word, who from the abundance of thy heart spoke so 
sweetly and so touchingly of the Saviour's Passion. . . 
No wonder thy tongue should distil such sweetness, 
since thy heart was filled with the honey that flows 
from meditation on the sufferings of Christ. — B. Henry 
Suso. 

He lived most holily and taught most excellently. . . 
As the face of Moses shone so brightly from the divine 
communications vouchsafed him that it dazzled the 
eyes of the people, so did Bernard radiate throughout 
the Church the light of heavenly knowledge with which 
his soul was flooded. — William of Paris. 

St. Bernard was truly an apostolic man. Rather he 
was a true apostle sent by God, mighty in word and 
work, everywhere confirming his mission by his mir- 
acles, so that in no respect does he come short of the 
great apostles. — Cardinal Baronius. 

St. Bernard was truly an apostle, not less illustrious, 
for his miracles than for the splendour of his wisdom. 
He has more miracles to his credit than any other saint 
whose life has been written. — Cardinal Bellarmin. 

Bernard is sweet, pious, penetrating, elegant, eloquent, 
inflaming. — Ribera. 

His discourse is every way sweet and ardent. It so 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE xi 

delights and fervently inflames, that, from his most 
sweet tongue, honey and milk seem to flow in his words, 
and out of his most ardent breast a fire of burning 
affections breaks out. — Sixtus Sinensis. 

Where can any one find for himself a more excellent 
teacher of divine love than this Saint, whose words are 
but so many sparks shot forth from the furnace of 
charity ? — Gerson. 

Of all the Greek Fathers I am most pleased with 
Chrysostom, who excels in fluency, variety, and every 
kind of ornament. Amongst the Latins I prefer Bernard, 
whose ardour and piquancy arouse the emotions, 
whilst his acuteness and wisdom inform the mind. — 
Lipsius. 

No monk ever either wrote better or lived more 
holily. . . . Bernard's language is unusually limpid and 
prudent. Hence he is often highly praised, even by the 
enemies of the Church, not only for his great learning, 
but also for his skill and moderation as a teacher. — 
B. Peter Canisius. 

Bernard enkindles in the hearts of his readers the 
same sweet flame of love which consumes his own. 
His lips distil milk and honey, especially when he 
speaks of the Incarnate Word or His Virgin Mother. — 
Cornelius a Lapide. 

Bernard is Christianly learned, holily eloquent, de- 
voutly cheerful and pleasant, powerful in moving the 
passi ons . — Erasmus . 

Read that most beautiful book De Consider atione, and 
from its most noble style you will understand that the 
author was more eloquent than Demosthenes, more 
subtle than Aristotle, wiser than Plato, more prudent 
than Socrates. — Helinandus. 

His works are the most useful for piety amongst 
' all the writings of the Fathers. — Valois. 

The elect of God amongst the elect, the most ex- 
cellent teacher of religious, the light and glory of monks, 
the model and example of the devout, who was pre- 
sented from on high with such graces, adorned with 
such qualities, distinguished by such privileges, that 



xii TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

no mind is powerful enough to conceive his greatness, 
no tongue eloquent enough to speak his praises. — 
Denis the Carthusian. 

Next to the Sacred Scriptures, no works should be 
more prized by the religious-minded, for none are more 
profitable, than those of St. Bernard. In them are 
found united all the perfections dispersed through the 
works of others : solidity of doctrine, grace of style, 
variety of matter, elegance of diction, conciseness, 
fervour, force of expression. — Mabillon. 

It is impossible to find a more sublime personification 
of the Catholic Church, combating against the heretics 
of his time, than the illustrious Abbot of Clairvaux, 
who speaks, as it were, in the name of the Christian 
faith. No one could more worthily represent the ideas 
and sentiments which the Church endeavoured to diffuse 
amongst mankind, or more faithfully delineate the 
course through which Catholicism would have led the 
human intellect. Let us pause in the presence of this 
gigantic mind, which attained to an eminence far 
beyond any of its contemporaries. This extraordinary 
man fills the world with his name, upheaves it with 
his word, sways it by his influence. In the midst of 
darkness he is its light. . . . His exposition of a point 
of doctrine is remarkable for ease and lucidity ; his 
demonstrations are vigorous and conclusive ; his reason- 
ing is conducted with a force of logic that presses hard 
upon his adversary and leaves him no means of escape ; 
in defence his quickness and address are surprising. In 
his answers he is clear and precise ; in repartee ready 
and penetrating ; and without dealing in the subtleties 
of the schools, he displays wonderful tact in disengag- 
ing truth from error, sound reason from artifice 
and fraud. Here is a man formed entirely and 
exclusively under the influence of Catholicism, a man 
who never dreamed of setting his intellect free from 
the yoke of authority ; and yet he rises like a 
mighty pyramid above all the men of his time. — 

B/iLMEZ. 

St. Bernard in his writings is equally tender, sweet, 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE xiii 

and vigorous. His style is lively, sublime, and pleasant. 
. . . He treats theological subjects after the manner 
of the ancients, on which account, and because of the 
great excellence of his writings he is reckoned amongst 
the Fathers. And though the youngest of them in 
time, he is one of the most useful to those who desire 
to study and to improve their hearts in sincere piety. 
— Alban Butler. 

There seems to have been in this one mind an inex- 
haustible abundance, variety, and versatility of gifts. 
Without ever ceasing to be the holy and mortified 
religious, St. Bernard appears to be the ruling will of 
his time. He stands forth as pastor, preacher, mys- 
tical writer, controversialist, reformer, pacificator, me- 
diator, arbiter, diplomatist, and statesman. Of all the 
writers of the first thousand years of the Church, none 
is more full of fervent, adoring, tender love for our 
Divine Lord, and none is more conspicuous for ardent 
affection and veneration for the Mother of God. — 
Cardinal Manning. 

Nature's favourite, grace enriched him with her 
choicest gifts. ... A prodigy of eloquence, speaking to 
all the stern language of duty and yet ever winning the 
enthusiastic love of all, he was a living miracle of the 
power of religion and of the heavenly charm of grace. 
As an 01 at or and a writer he stands foremost in his 
day. . . . His style is spirited and flowery, his thoughts 
ingenious ; his imagination brilliant and rich in alle- 
gories ; his assiduous meditation on and study of the 
Sacred Text had so interwoven it with his thoughts that 
their every utterance naturally reproduced its ideas 
and expression. — D arras. 

We know a man who, though living in solitude, could 
sway the world and direct the Church by the charm 
of his words and the power of his genius. Though the 
mildest of men, he was at the same time the most 
resolute. . . . We speak of St. Bernard, whose mental 
and moral greatness his contemporaries in the twelfth 
century knew so well how to prize. — Rohrbacher. 

Thou art he, O mellifluous Bernard, who dost con- 



xiv TRANSLATORS PREFACE 

tinue still, as heretofore, to irrigate the world with the 
dew of thy heavenly doctrine and most sweetly to 
refresh it with thy writings, flowing with milk and 
honey. Whilst perusing these, we seem to enjoy the 
pleasures of the promised land, even in this place of 
horror and desolation, and the bitter waters of the 
desert appear to be sweetened with a foretaste of our 
future bliss. — Horst. 

What can so enliven our devotion, excite our con- 
trition, or inflame our love as the life and teaching of 
the blessed Father St. Bernard ? Where shall we find 
one more efficacious in exhorting to virtue, in dis- 
suading from vice, in lifting our affections from earth 
to heaven ? — De Hassia. 

Non-Catholic Testimonies. 

Bernard surpasses all the other Doctors of the Church. 
— Luther. 

The Abbot Bernard, in his books De Consider atione, 
speaks in the language of truth itself. — Calvin. 

Who can write more sweetly than Bernard ? His 
meditations I call a river of Paradise, spiritual nectar, 
the food of angels, the very soul of piety. — Hein. 

A few of Bernard's pages contain more spirit and 
life and doctrine and faith than all the writings of 
Jerome. — Neander. 

In speech, in writing, in action, Bernard stood high 
above his rivals and contemporaries. . . . He became 
the oracle of Europe. — Gibbon. 

Never has there been a religious better able to re- 
concile engrossment in the tumult of affairs with the 
austerity of his state of life. He, beyond all others, 
acquired an influence springing from purely personal 
merits and surpassing in efficacy official authority. — 
Voltaire. 

St. Bernard was the most eloquent, the most in- 
fluential, the most piously disinterested of the Chris- 
tians of his age. — Guizot. 

W 7 e are used to speak of St. John as the Apostle of 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE xv 

Love. The title " Doctor of Love " will sufficiently 
define St. Bernard's place among the theologians of 
the Church. — Gardner. 

One would hardly know where to find a brighter 
example of the power which is imparted to the preacher 
by this always noble, if sometimes dangerous and mis- 
leading, faculty (of imagination). It is perpetually 
apparent in Bernard. Whatever else he is or is not, 
he is never commonplace. His mind is fruitful in 
large suggestions, and the text is often hardly more 
than a nest from which, like the eagle, he lifts himself 
on eager wing, to touch, if he may, the stars of light. 
— Storrs. 

With respect to the Sermons on the Canticle of 
Canticles in particular, I cannot refrain from quoting 
a few additional witnesses, even at the risk of weary- 
ing the reader : — 

They contain whatever the holy Doctor has said in 
his other works appertaining to morals and piety ; in 
fact, all that he ever wrote on the virtues and vices 
and the spiritual life. All this he repeats in these Dis- 
courses, but with greater solidity and elevation of 
style, whilst he removes the veils and obscurities from 
the mystical and allegorical senses of the Sacred Text, 
and brings forth to the light all the secrets of perfection, 
in a manner no less delightful than sublime. — Mabillon. 

He spoke to men in the language of angels and they 
were scarcely able to understand it. — Fleury. 

The questions so beautifully treated here are precisely 
those which appear in St .Thomas 'sSvmma. — Dalgairns. 

In this immortal code of divine love, he celebrates 
the nuptials of the soul with God, and depicts in lines 
of light that Bride who loves only for the sake of loving 
and being loved. . . . Human tenderness, no matter 
how eloquent, has never inspired accents more passionate 
or more profound. — Montalembert. 

The Sermons are tremulous with the incessant 

immer of allegories .... so rich in their spiritual 



xvi TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

suggestiveness that they strike upon the mind like rays 
straight from heaven, and belonging to that " light 
that never was on sea or shore.' ' — Eales. 

The Sermons were begun in the Advent of 1135, 
after the Saint's return from his .second mission to 
Aquitaine, which had resulted happily in the conver- 
sion of Duke William. The first suggestion of them 
came from the Carthusian, Bernard de Portis. So 
much is clear from two extant letters on the subject, 
addressed by the holy Abbot to this religious. In the 
earlier of these, he gently remonstrates with his friend, 
who, as he says, was imposing on him a task for which 
he had neither time nor talent. " The more insistent 
you have been in asking," he writes, " the more reso- 
lute have I been in refusing, not out of disregard for 
you but through compassion for myself. . . . My reluct- 
ance has been proportionate to your eagerness. Do you 
ask why? I will tell you. It is because of my fears 
lest such great expectations should be disappointed 
by the birth of nothing better than the ' ridiculous 
mouse.' " However, he yields to his friend's impor- 
tunity and promises to send on immediately a few of the 
Sermons on the Canticle, already composed, in order 
to cure him of the desire for any more. Still, should 
these meet with his correspondent's approval, he en- 
gages to go forward with the work according to his 
opportunities. In the second letter, after apologising 
for not having kept an appointment to visit the Car- 
thusian community, he says : " The Sermons on the 
Canticles which you asked and which I promised you, I 
am forwarding herewith. When you have gone through 
them, write and tell me whether I am to proceed or 
to desist." Some have supposed that this Bernard de 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE xvii 

Portis is the Friend to whom the Saint refers in his 
first Discourse. 

During the eighteen years that intervened between 
this commencement and his death, in 1153, St. Bernard 
continued his lectures, preaching sometimes every day, 
as we learn from Sermon XXII ; sometimes only on 
festivals, according as his health and preoccupations 
permitted. But interruptions were frequent and long, 
for the Preacher was often called away to bring to an 
end a dangerous schism, or to make peace between 
princes, or to put a stop to scandals, or to marshal 
the forces of Europe for another mighty effort against 
the powers of the Saracen. Although many passages 
occur, which were evidently spoken extempore, the 
Saint, as a rule, took pains with the preparation of his 
Discourses. One of his biographers gives us a pleasing 
picture of him reposing from his external labours in 
the seclusion of a garden bower, formed of a trellis 
covered over with sweet-pea ; it was there, whilst ab- 
sorbed in divine contemplation, that his soul was filled 
with these songs of love, these spiritual epithalamiums. 
There is evidence in the Sermons themselves that, 
sometimes at any rate, they were only written down 
after being delivered to the brethren in the monastic 
auditorium. On such occasions, only the choir reli- 
gious, including the novices, attended, the lay- brothers 
not being supposed to understand Latin. Mabillon, 
however, states that the Saint himself, for their benefit, 
preached the same Discourses in the French language, 
and that he had himself examined some of these trans- 
lations in manuscript . Such charity would not surprise 
us in St . Bernard. The hour for these love-feasts varied. 
Sometimes it was in the morning, as we gather from 



xviii TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

Sermons I and XL VII ; sometimes in the evening, as 
is implied in Sermon LXXI. 

The reader may feel disappointed if he fails to bear 
in mind that the holy Abbot is here not commenting, 
but preaching, on the " Song of Solomon,' ' and is, 
therefore, entitled to the liberties of a preacher. As a 
matter of fact, the text serves him but as a frame whereon 
to weave the wondrously beautiful fabrics of an extra- 
ordinarily fertile fancy, as a point of departure whence 
to wing his luminous way around the wide-extended 
realms of thought, or as a watch-tower, from which to 
contemplate all things in heaven, on earth, and under 
the earth. Thus these Sermons, instead of being dry-as- 
dust homilies, are as varied and many-coloured as is 
the spiritual life, every aspect of which they discuss 
with equal solidity and elegance. They exhibit the 
same independence of thought and treatment which 
characterise all the other works of their Author. Saints 
Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory the Great are almost 
the only human authorities whom St. Bernard ever 
makes use of, and even on these his dependence is very 
slight. On the other hand, no other writer is so full of 
Holy Scripture, from which he borrows something in 
nearly every sentence. Even when he is not actually 
quoting from it, his speech is unconsciously attuned 
to the music of its cadences. 

The saintly Preacher had purposed to go over the 
whole of the Canticle. But death overtook him whilst 
engaged on the first verse of the third chapter, that 
is, when he had completed a fourth of his task, in 
eighty-six Sermons. In some editions we find the 
number eighty-seven, but this is because the two read- 
ings of XXIV are given as distinct Sermons, or because 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE xix 

one of the longer Discourses has been divided. Only 
eighty-six Sermons in eighteen years ! Yes, but if you 
consider the multitudinous cares, the " solicitudes for 
all the Churches," and for all the States as well, that 
pressed upon the Saint, you will rather wonder how 
he found time to accomplish so much. Nevertheless, 
supremely important as were his services to religion and 
society in his capacities as churchman and statesman, 
canonist, propagandist, and peace-maker, we cannot but 
lament, as he himself lamented, the necessities that 
called him away from this more congenial occupation. 
One Gilbert of Hoiland took up the work where St. 
Bernard left off, and advanced as far as verse 10 of 
chapter v. in forty-eight Sermons, which, in the judgment 
of Mabillon, are almost worthy of the Saint himself. 
According to the same eminent authority, this Gilbert 
was an Irishman, and Abbot of St. Mary's, Dublin. 
Horst supposed him to have been Abbot of another 
Cistercian house of the same name in Lincoln. But as 
the evidence in favour of this view was fully known to 
Mabillon yet failed to influence him, we are justified 
in regarding it as negligible. 

The only merit claimed for this Translation is that 
of fidelity to the original. I have endeavoured to re- 
present the author's thought simply and clearly without 
any effort after ornament or eloquence. The under- 
taking has been far from easy. An eminent prelate, 
now no more, used to declare that St. Bernard was 
untranslatable. That is certainly an exaggeration. But 
so much at least is true, that hardly is there another 
writer whose thought is so difficult to detach from his 
language, because there is hardly another whose lan- 
guage is so closely wedded to his thought. Logicians 
tell us that words are only conventional signs of ideas, 



xx TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

but one feels inclined to make an exception in the case 
of St. Bernard. With him the ideas seemed to have 
blossomed into expression naturally and spontaneously, 
so wonderful is the felicitousness and aptness of the 
latter. All this, of course, as well as the unnumbered 
inimitable graces of style and diction which make the 
Latin so delightful to read, has been lost in the trans- 
lation. Hence it appears how inadequately these pages 
represent the original. But it is enough for me if I 
have succeeded, as I hope I have, in rendering access- 
ible to those for whom the Latin is a sealed fountain 
the authoritative teaching of so great a Master of the 
interior life. The dissemination of such doctrines can 
hardly fail to be fruitful of good, especially in these 
days of spiritual renaissance, when so many souls are 
looking for light, when so many questions are being 
asked concerning the relation between modern mystic- 
ism and the medieval, when mysticism itself is attract- 
ing so much attention, both within and without the 
Church, and so many religious " specialists " are loudly 
advertising their own misty varieties of the thing, or 
their nebulous theories thereon. 

It has been thought advisable to publish the present 
Translation of the Sermons on the Canticle in two 
volumes, each containing forty-three Discourses. A 
third volume, uniform with these, shall include, with 
selected treatises, the Saint's twenty-seven Homilies 
on Psalm xc. These have never before appeared in 
English, and are in quite the same style and of equal 
merit with those on the Song of Solomon. 

Feast oj St. Bernard, 191 9. 



CONTENTS 

SERMON PAGE 

I. On the Meaning of the Title . . . i 

II. On the Incarnation of Christ . . . io 

III. On the mystical Kiss of the Lord's Feet, 

Hand, and Mouth .... 20 

IV. On the Three Stages of the Soul's Progress 2 7 
V. On the four Orders of Spirits . . 32 

VI. On the Kiss of the Lord's Feet . . 41 

VII. On the Love of the Spouse, and on the 

Attention due to the Word of God . 49 

VIII. On the Kiss of the Mouth interpreted of 
the Holy Spirit .... 

IX. On the Breasts of the Bridegroom and 
of the Spouse .... 

X. On the Spiritual Ointments ... 80 

XI. On the Mode and Fruit of Redemption . 90 

XII. On the Ointment of Piety . . . IO o 

XIII. Glory belongs to God Alone . . .114 

XIV. The Church and the Synagogue . . r2 6 

XV. On the Name of Jesus . . . .136 

XVI. On the mystical Sense of the Number 

Seven I4 8 

XVII. On the Coming and Going of the Spirit . 164 
XVIII. On the twofold Operation of the Holy 

Ghost ..... 

xxi 



58 
68 



x 74 



xxii CONTENTS 

SERMON PAGE 

XIX. On the Motives on Account of which 

Christ the Lord is Loved by the Angels 184 

XX. On the various Degrees and Character- 
istics of the Love of Christ . . 194 

XXI. In what Manner the Spouse desires to 

BE DRAWN ...... 207 

XXII. On the four Ointments . . . 220 

XXIII. On the mystical Garden, Storeroom, and 

Bedchamber ..... 234 

XXIV. On Detraction and the Necessity of 

uniting Faith with Good Works . .258 

XXV. On the Blackness and the Beauty of 

the Bridegroom and the Bride . .270 

XXVI. The Blackness of the Bride compared 
to the Tents of Cedar — The Saint's 
Lament over his Brother . . .280 

XXVII. The Beauty of the Bride compared to 

Solomon's Curtains .... 302 

XXVIII. The Curtains of Solomon explained with 
reference to the Blackness of the 
Bridegroom and the Bride . . 320 

XXIX. On Domestic Discord and Fraternal 

Charity . . . . . • 337 

XXX. On the mystical Vineyards and concern- 
ing the Prudence of the Flesh . 349 

XXXI. On the various Visions of God . . 365 

XXXII. On the different Ways in which the 
Word manifests Himself to different 
Souls, and on the Sources of Good and 
Evil Thoughts . . . . .377 



CONTENTS xxiii 

SERMON PAGE 

XXXIII. On the three Objects of the devout 
Soul's Quest, on the Mystical Meri- 
dian, AND THE FOUR KlNDS OF TEMP- 
TATION ...... 389 

X XXXIV. On Humility and Patience . . . 409 
XXXV. On the two Kinds of Ignorance which 

WE SHOULD FEAR AND AVOID . . 415 

XXXVI. On the Order to be observed in Acqui- 
sition of Knowledge . . . 426 

/ XXXVII. On the Knowledge and Ignorance of 

God and Self ..... 436 

XXXVIII. On the Manner in which Ignorance of 
God leads to Despair, and on the 
Beauty of the Spouse . . . 445 

XXXIX. On the Chariots of Pharao and the 

Captains of his Host . . . 452 

XL. On the Cheeks of the Spouse and what 

constitutes their Beauty . . 462 

XLI. On what is meant by the Neck of the 
Spouse, and by the Chains of Gold 
promised Her . . . . . 469 

XLII. On Submission to Correction, and the 

two Kinds of Humility . . .477 

XLIII. On the Remembrance of Christ's 

Sufferings ..... 492 



ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

ON THE 

CANTICLE OF CANTICLES. 



SERMON I. 

On the Meaning of the Title: "Solomon's 
Canticle of Canticles/' 

You, my brethren, require instruction different from 
that which would suit people living in the world, and 
if not in matter, in manner, at least. For a teacher 
who would follow the example of St. Paul, should give 
them "milk to drink, not meat." But more solid food 
must be set before spiritual persons, as the same Apostle 
teaches us by his practice. "We speak," he says, 
" not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in 
the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things 
with spiritual." Again, " We speak wisdom amongst 
the perfect "-such, my brethren, as I believe you to 
be, unless, indeed, it is to no purpose that you have 
been so long engaged in the study of spiritual things, 
in mortifying your senses, and in meditating day and 
night on the law of God. So now open your mouths 
to receive not milk, but bread. It is the bread of 
Solomon, and is exceedingly good and palatable. For 
the Book entitled the Canticle of Canticles is the bread 
I speak of, which may now, if you please, be brought 
forth to be broken. 



2 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Bv the words of Ecclesiastes,* you have been, I 
think, throngh the grace of God, already sufficient y 
enlightened to understand and despise the vanity 
of this world. What need to mention the Book of 
Proverbs ? Is not your whole life and conduct 
regulated and reformed in perfect accordance with he 
doctrines contained therein ? Having, therefore, tasted 
first both these loaves of bread, borrowed, however 
from the cupboard of the Friend, you are now invited 
to try this third loaf,t which, mayhap, you wil find 
stronger. As there are two evils which, solely or 
especially, wage war against the soul, we are given 
S two Books °f Ecclesiastes and Proverbs to oppose 
to them. Of these the former, using the hoe of discip- 
line grubs out whatever is corrupt in our morals and 
whatever is superfluous in the indulgence of the flesh ; 
whilst the latter, by the light of reason, prudently 
discovers the smoke of vanity in all worldly glory and 
distinguishes it faithfully from the solidity of truth 
putting the fear of God and the observance of His 
Lmmandments before all human interests and earthly 
desires. This is well. Such fear is the beginning o. 
true wisdom, as such observance is its consummation 
-assuming you agree with me that the only true and 

* Some «ather from these words that St. Bernard had pre- 

Eccles.astes a "? f £ert£ as in thc list of works given by 

quite unwarranted, lispecian} , ^ c«;„+ +v>pre is no 

Geoffrey, secretary and biographer of the , Saint, there xs 
mention of any such productions --( Tran *?. ^> f shall 

t The allusion here is to Luke XX. yd. Wlucfi i c y 
hale a fr:end and shall go to him at m.dnight a £? * al ' sa ^*° 

him : Friend, .end me three »° a 7 ka ^^4l" S sef before 
is come off his journey to me, and 1 have noi wna 
him."— (Translator.) 



SOLOMON'S CANTICLE OF CANTICLES 3 

peifect wisdom consists in avoiding evil and doing 
good. For without the fear of God it is impossible to 
avoid evil perfectly, and there is no good work possible 
without the observance of the commandments. 

Now, then, after ridding ourselves of these two evils 
by the study of those two books, we may confidently 
take in hand this third discourse on holy contemplation, 
which, being the fruit of the preceding, should only be 
entrusted to sober minds and chastened ears. For it 
would be criminal presumption on the part of imperfect 
souls to occupy themselves with such a sacred subject 
before the flesh has been tamed by discipline and sub- 
dued to the spirit, and the vanity and cares of the 
world despised and abjured. Just as the eye that is 
blind or closed cannot profit by the light poured upon 
it, "so the animal man perceiveth not those things 
which are of the Spirit of God/' The reason is, because 
the "Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the de- 
ceitful," that is, from a man of ill-regulated life, 
neither will He ever have part with the vanity of the 
world, inasmuch as He is the Spirit of truth. For what 
society hath the wisdom which is from above with that 
of the world, which is foolishness in the sight of God, or 
with that of the flesh, which is the enemy of God ?' 

Anyhow, I suppose the "friend, who cometh to us 
off his journey," will have no reason to complain of 
us when he has helped himself to this third loaf of 
bread. But who shall break it to us ? Lo ! we have 
here the Father of the family Himself, as it is written, 
you shall " know the Lord in the breaking of the bread/' 
Who else but He is capable ? As for me, I am not 
rash enough to undertake such a task. You must 
therefore, my brethren, so look upon me as to look 



4 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

for nothing from me. For I also am one of those who 
hope, a beggar, like yourselves, for the food of my 
soul, for a spiritual alms. Poor and needy, I appeal 
to Him " Who openeth and no man shutteth," begging 
Him to reveal to us the deep mysteries contained 
in this Book. "The eyes of all hope in Thee, O 
Lord." "The little ones have asked for bread and 
there is no one to break it unto them." For this we 
look to Thy gracious mercy. Therefore, O most Loving- 
kind ! break Thy bread to the hungry, by my hands, 
if it so please Thee, but by Thine own power. 
\i\^ And, first of all, tell us, I beseech Thee, by whom, 
of whom, and to whom is it said, " Let him kiss me 
with the kiss of his mouth " ? And what means this 
abruptness, this sudden beginning in the middle of 
the discourse ? For the words are so uttered as if 
there had been a previous speaker to Whom this other 
is represented as if replying, whoever she is that so- 
licits the kiss. Again, if she requests or demands to 
be kissed by someone, why ask expressly and explicitly 
that this be done with the mouth and with his own 
mouth, as if it were customary to give such an embrace 
otherwise, or by proxy ? Yet she is not content with 
saying, " let him kiss me with his mouth" but uses 
the still more unusual expression, " with the kiss of 
his mouth/' A pleasant discourse this, surely, which 
begins with a kiss. In truth, the smiling face, so to 
speak, of this part of Scripture entices and allures us 
to read, so that it is a delight to investigate, even with 
labour, its hidden meanings ; for the difficulty of inquiry 
never wearies when we are charmed by the sweetness 
of the discourse. Yet Who can help having his atten-J 
tion aroused by this beginning without a beginning, 



SOLOMON'S CANTICLE OF CANTICLES 5 

and this novelty of language in an ancient book ? Here 
we have proof that this work is no product of human 
genius, but composed by the art of the Holy Spirit, in 
the fact that despite its being so difficult to understand, 
it is at the same time such a pleasure to study. 

But are we to pass over the title ? No, my brethren, 
we must not omit a single iota, since we are com- 
manded to gather up the smallest fragments, lest they 
be lost. The title runs, "The Beginning of Solomon's 
Canticle of Canticles.' , Observe, in the first place, how 
fitly the name Solomon, which, in the Hebrew, signifies 
the " Peaceful One," stands at the head of a book which 
takes its beginning from the token of peace, that is, 
from a kiss. Notice, also, that such a beginning invites 
to the understanding of this Canticle only peaceful 
souls, those, namely, who have succeeded in freeing 
themselves from the tumult of the passions and the 
distractions of temporal cares. Nor should the fact 
that the Book is not called a canticle, but the Canticle 
of Canticles, be regarded as insignificant. I have, 
indeed, read many canticles in Sacred Scripture, but 
none other, as far as I can remember, bearing such a 
title. Israel sang a hymn to the Lord, after escaping 
the sword and the yoke of Pharaoh , what time the sea 
rendered them the double service of delivering them 
from danger and wreaking vengeance on their enemies. 
Yet that hymn was not called the Canticle of Canticles. 
Holy Scripture simply says, if my memory serves me 
aright, that " Israel sang this song to the Lord." Deb- 
bora, too, sang a canticle, as did also Judith, and the 
mother of Samuel, and several of the prophets. But we 
do not read that any of these canticles were called the 
Canticle of Canticles. You will find, I think, that all 



6 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

those persons sang their songs on account of some benefit 
bestowed upon themselves or their nation, as for a 
victory gained, or a danger avoided, or the acquisition 
of some coveted object. Such singers, therefore, had 
special motives for their canticles, and sang to show 
their gratitude for the divine favours, as it is written, 
" He will confess to Thee when Thou shalt benefit him." 
But King Solomon, excelling in wisdom, exalted in 
glory, and secure in peace, is known to have stood in 
need of no earthly object the acquisition of which 
would stimulate him to sing this canticle of his. Nor 
do his own writings anywhere give occasion for such 
a surmise. We must therefore suppose that, under 
divine inspiration, he celebrates the praises of Christ 
and His Church, the grace of heavenly love, and the 
mysteries of the eternal marriage. He also gives ex- 
pression to the desires of the holy soul, and exulting 
in spirit, composed this nuptial song in sweet but figura- 
tive language. For, like Moses, he veils his counten- 
ance, here, perhaps, not less dazzlingly bright than the 
Lawgiver's on Mount Sinai, because at that time very 
few, if any, could endure to gaze upon the glory of his 
naked face. In my opinion, therefore, this marriage 
hymn owes its title to its excellence, and with good 
reason is singularly called the Canticle of Canticles in 
the same way as He to Whom it is sung is singularly 
named " King of kings and Lord of lords." 

And you, my brethren, if you look back upon your 
own experience, have not you also sung a new canticle 
to the Lord, "because He worked wonders," in the 
victory wherewith your faith "hath vanquished the 
world," and in your deliverance out ,of " the pit of 
misery and the mire of dregs " ? Again, when He added 



SOLOMON'S CANTICLE OF CANTICLES 7 

the further grace of setting your feet upon the rock 
and directing your steps, I am sure that for this indul- 
gence of a new life, your mouths were filled with another 
"new canticle, a hymn to our God." And when your 
penitence obtained from Him not only the pardon of your 
sins but even the promise of reward — did you not with 
still greater fervour, rejoicing in the hope of future goods, 
sing your songs " in the ways of the Lord, because great 
is the glory of the Lord " ? And if for any amongst 
3'ou a mysterious or obscure text of Scripture has some- 
times become, on a sudden, luminous with meaning, 
surely it was a duty to charm the ears of God " with 
the voice of joy and peace, the sound of one feasting," 
in return for the alms of heavenly bread bestowed. But 
even in these daily trials and combats, in which all 
who live piously in Christ are kept constantly engaged 
by the world, the flesh, and the devil — thus constantly 
experiencing in themselves that the life of man upon 
earth is a warfare — in these also, I say, we find the 
obligation of daily singing new canticles for victories 
achieved. As often as a temptation is overcome, or a 
vice eradicated, or an imminent danger avoided, or a 
hidden snare discovered, or any deeply rooted and in- 
veterate passion finally and completely vanquished, or 
some virtue, long and eagerly desired and often asked 
for, is at last obtained through the grace of God, so 
often, according to the Prophet, should we sound forth 
our thanks and praise and bless " God in His gifts " j 
for each benefit received. For, when the Judgment 
comes, he shall be considered an ingrate who cannot 
say to God, " Thy justifications were the subject of my 
song in the place of my pilgrimage." 
I think, my brethren, you already recognise in your 



8 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

own experience those canticles, which in the Psalter are 
not called the Canticle of Canticles, but the " Canticles of 
the Steps." For at every advance you make towards 
perfection, according to the " ascents " which each has 
"disposed in his heart," a particular canticle has to 
be sung to the praise and glory of Him Who advances 
you. I do not see how otherwise can be fulfilled the 
verse, " A voice of exultation and salvation in the 
tabernacle of the just." Still less that most beautiful 
and salutary exhortation of the Apostle, " In psalms 
and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making 
melody in your hearts to the Lord." But there is one 
canticle which, by reason of its singular excellence and 
sweetness, surpasses all those I have mentioned and all 
others whatsoever. This I would name the Canticle 
of Canticles, because it is the fruit of all the rest. Giace 
alone can teach it, nor can it be learned save by ex- 
perience. It is for the experienced, therefore, to re- 
cognise it, and for others to burn with the desire, not 
so much of knowing, as of feeling it ; since this canticle 
is not a noise made by the mouth but a jubilee of 
the heart, not a sound of the lips but a tumult of 
internal joys, not a symphony of voices but a harmony 
of wills. It is not heard outside, for it sounds not ex- 
ternally. The singer alone can hear it , and He to Whom 
it is sung, namely, the Bridegroom and the Bride. For 
it is a nuptial song, celebrating the chaste and joyous 
embraces of loving hearts, the concord of minds, and 
the union resuhing from reciprocal affection. 

Yet this canticle can neither be heard nor sung by 
souls that are weak and imperfect, and but recently 
converted from the world, but only by such as are 
advanced and sufficiently enlightened. For these, by 



SOLOMON'S CANTICLE OF CANTICLES 9 

their progress under the grace of God, have so increased, 
that they have now come to maturity and to the mar- 
riageable age, so to speak, measuring time by merits 
rather than by years. They are ripe for the mystical 
nuptials of the Heavenly Bridegroom, as will be more 
fully explained in its proper place.* Now, it is the hour 
at which both our poverty and our Rule require us to 
go forth to manual labour. To-morrow I will resume, 
in the name of the Lord, my discourse on the mystical 
kiss, having in to-day's sermon sufficiently expounded 
the meaning of the title. 

* Sermon LXXXIII. 



SERMON II 

On the Incarnation of Christ, announced by 
Patriarchs and Prophets. 

" Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth." 

Whenever I reflect, as I very often do, on the yearn- 
ing and ardent desires of the fathers for the presence 
of Christ in the flesh, I am filled with giief and con- 
fusion. Even now scarcely can I restrain my tears, so 
great is the shame I feel at. the thought of the tepidity 
and sloth of these miserable times. For is there one 
amongst us, my brethren, who derives a satisfaction 
from the actual fruition of this grace, proportionate to 
the longing excited in the holy men of old by its mere 
promise ? What multitudes, for instance, will rejoice 
on the anniversary of the Saviour's Birth, which we shall 
soon be celebrating ? But would to God the cause of 
their joy were the Divine Nativity, and not rather 
worldly vanity ! It is something of the fathers' yearn- 
ing and holy expectation I now find enkindled in my 
soul by those woids, " Let Him kiss me with the kiss 
of His Mouth." Such few spiritual persons as could 
be found in those pre-Christian times, well knew in 
spirit what grace would be "poured abroad on His 
Lips." This is the reason why they exclaimed, speaking 
in the desire of their souls, " Let Him kiss me with the 
kiss of His Mouth." They longed, namely, with ari\ 
eager longing, for admission to some share in such over- 
flowing sweetness. In truth, every perfect soul under^ 



ON THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST n 

the old dispensation may be supposed to have com- 
plained to God somewhat as follows : " Wherefore dost 
Thou offer me these ' babbling ' * lips of the prophets ? 
Rather let Him Who is ' beautiful above the sons of 
men ' — 'let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth.' 
' I will not now hear Moses,' for he is become to me ' of 
a more stammering tongue.' Isaias is a ' man of unclean 
lips.' Jeremias ' knoweth not how to speak, for he is a 
child.' All the other prophets, too, lack the power of 
utterance. Him, Him of Whom they prophesied — let 
Him speak, ' let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth.' 
No longer in them, or through them, let Him speak to 
me, since ' dark are the waters in the clouds of air,' but 
' let Him,' in His own Person, ' kiss me with the kiss 
of His Mouth,' whose grace-giving contact and streams 
of heavenly doctrine may become in me ' a fountain 
of living water, springing up into eternal life.' Surely 
I may expect a more abundant outpouring of graces 
from Him Whom the Father 'hath anointed with the 
oil of gladness above His fellows ' — if only He will 
condescend to ' kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth.' 

* This is the word used in the Douay Version, and renders 
the common meaning of the Greek original, aneppoXoya (seed- 
gathering, from cnrepfia and Xeyeiv), a term applied to crows to 
express their scavenging habits, and hence transferred to persons 
who resembled the crow in any of its characteristics. Thus, in 
calling St. Paul a " cnreppoXoyos " (Acts xvii. 18) the Areopagites 
meant that he was but an idle babbler or gossiper. However, 
as the word Xeyeiv can mean to speak as well as to gather, 
(rircpiiokoya may also be rendered " seminiverbia," as in the 
Vulgate, which is correctly translated " word-sowing " by the 
authors of the Rheims Version — quite a beautiful meaning 
in the present context, as the words of the prophets may 
be regarded as the seeds of the events predicted. St. Bernard 
seems to have intended the word in both significations. 
— (Translator.) 



12 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

For His word, ' living and efficacious,' is to me as a 
kiss, not indeed a contact of lips, which sometimes de- 
ceives in falsely signifying a union of hearts, but an 
infusion of joy, a revelation of secrets, a marvellous, 
and, in a sense, indistinguishable intermingling of the 
Light Supernal with the enlightened soul." * 

Hence, my brethren, that expression of the Apostle, 
" He that adhereth to the Lord is one spirit with Him." 
With good reason, therefore, do I refuse visions and 
dreams ; with reason do I decline figures and parables. 
Even the loveliness of the angelic spirits fails to content 
me, as falling infinitely short of the comeliness and 
beauty of my Jesus. It is He, then, Himself, and none 
other, whether angel or man, that I ask to kiss " me 
with the kiss of His Mouth." But I am not so pre- 
sumptuous as to want to be kissed with His Mouth— iov 
that is the incommunicable happiness and the singular 
prerogative of His assumed Human Nature. My request 
is more humble : to be kissed with the kiss of His Mouth. 



* <> 



" Mira quaedam et quodamodo indiscreta commixtio superni 
Luminis et illuminatae mentis." Similarly, St. Theresa speaking 
of the spiritual marriage : " I can only say that, as far as one 
can understand, the soul, I mean the spirit of the soul, is made 
one with God " (Interior Castle, " Seventh Mansion," chap, 
xi.). Also, "spiritual marriage is like rain falling from the 
sky into the river or stream, becoming one and the same liquid, 
so that the river water and the rain cannot be divided. . . . The 
marriage may also be likened to a room into which the light 
enters through the windows— though it passes through two the 
light is one." And St. John of the Cross : " He (God) communi- 
cates His own supernatural Being in such a way that the soul 
seems to be God Himself and to possess the things of God." 
Iliis union must not be confounded with the " deification " of 
the false mystics, such as Eckhardt and Tauler, in which the 
creature is said to be so merged in the Creator that it loses its 
own personality. Eckhardt was condemned by John XXII 
in 1329.— (Translator.) 



ON THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST 13 

This is the privilege of many who can consequently 
say, "i\nd we all have received of His plenitude/' 

Now, my brethren, I want your best attention. Let 
us consider the Word assuming to be the Mouth that 
kisses ; let the Nature assumed be the Mouth that is 
kissed ; and let the Divine Person, subsisting in two 
Natures, the Mediator between God and man, the Man 
Christ Jesus, be the Kiss in which both Mouths co- 
operate. In this sense, none of the saints would 
ever presume to say, " Let Him kiss me with His 
Mouth," but only "with the kiss of His Mouth," for 
they reserved the higher privilege to Him to Whom, 
solely and once and for all, the Mouth of the Word 
then impressed a kiss when the whole plenitude of the 
Divinity poured Itself into Him " corporally." O 
happy Kiss, marvel of infinite condescension, whereby 
there is not mere pressure of mouth upon mouth, but 
God is united to man ! The contact of lips signifies 
the embrace of loving hearts ; but this union of natures 
brings together the divine and human, " making peace 
as to the things on earth and the things that are in 
heaven " — " For He is our peace Who hath made 
both one." It isf or this Kiss, therefore, that is, for Christ , 
that every saint of the Old Testament yearned, because 
they foreknew that His was the inheritance of joy and 
exultation, that in Him " all the treasures of wisdom 
and knowledge were hidden," and they desired for 
themselves a participation in His fulness. 

I believe this interpretation commends itself to you, 
dear brethren. Now, listen to another. Even the 
saints who lived before the coming of Our Saviour 
were not unaware that God entertained thoughts of 
peace towards the race of mortal men, for He would 



14 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

not accomplish any of His designs on earth without 
revealing it to His servants the prophets, as He Him- 
self declared. Yet this word Was hidden from many ; 
faith was then not easy to find in the world, and even 
in the case of most of those who were still " looking 
for the Redemption of Israel/' hope had grown ex- 
ceedingly weak. Now, the prophets, who foresaw that 
Christ was to come in the flesh bringing with Him 
peace, began to proclaim these things. Thus one 
of them said, " And there shall be peace in our land 
when He comes." What is more, under divine inspira- 
tion, they predicted with all confidence that through 
Him men were destined to recover the grace of God. 
John, the Precursor, acknowledged that this prophecy 
was fulfilled in his own day, saying, " Grace and truth 
came by Jesus Christ." And now every Christian 
beholds its fulfilment in his own experience. 

But whilst the prophets were thus predicting peace, 
and the Author of peace still deferred His coming, the 
people's faith began to waver, " because there was 
none to redeem or to save." And so they began to 
complain of the delay. They complained that the 
Prince of Peace, so often announced, had not yet 
arrived amongst them, " as He spoke by the mouths 
of His holy prophets who are from the beginning." 
Hence they came to doubt the consoling predictions, 
and demanded the sign or pledge of the promised recon- 
ciliation, that is, a kiss. It was as if one of the people 
should thus address the messengers of peace : " ' How 
long do you hold our souls in suspense ? ' You have now 
been predicting peace for a great length of time, and 
lo ! it has not yet appeared. You have promised good 
things and still there is only confusion. Behold this 



ON THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST 15 

very grace, ' at sundry times and in divers manners/ 
was announced to the fathers by angels and to us 
by the fathers, who cried * Peace, peace/ and there 
was no peace. If God would reassure us as to the sin- 
cerity of His good will, so often proclaimed by His 
legates, but not yet proved by the event, 'let Him 
kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth/ and thus, by the 
token of peace, confirm me in my hope of peace. For 
how can I any longer have faith in mere words ? The 
verbal promise requires confirmation by deeds. Let 
God prove His envoys truthful — if His envoys they are 
indeed — by following them Himself, as they promised 
He would do, because without Him they can do nothing. 
He has sent His servant, He has sent His staff,* but as 
yet there is no return of either voice or feeling. I 
will not arise, I will not awake, I will not shake off 
the dust, I will not admit hope until the Prophet Him- 
self come down and ' kiss me with the kiss of His 
Mouth/ Besides, He Who proclaims Himself to be 
our Mediator with God, is God's own Son, and Himself 
true God. And ' what is man that He should be made 
known to him ? Or the son of man that He should 
make account of him ? ' On the other hand, what is 
my confidence that I should dare to entrust myself 
to so awful a Majesty ? How, I ask, can I, who am 
but dust and ashes, presume to think that God hath 
caie of me ? Moreover, He loves His Father, but of 
me or of ' my goods He hath no need.' How, then, can 
I be sure that He, my Mediator, will not take part 
against me ? Yet if, indeed, as you prophets say, 
God has resolved to show mercy and is ' thinking of 
becoming, more favourable again/ let him establish a 

* Reference to 4 Kings iv. 29. — (Translator.) 



16 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

testament of peace, let Him make an everlasting cove- 
nant with me by the ' kiss of His Mouth.' In order 
that He may not ' make void the words that proceed 
from His Lips,' let Him ' empty Himself,' let Him 
humble Himself, let Him stoop down and ' kiss me 
with the kiss of His Mouth.' If, as Mediator, He would 
be equally trusted by both parties (God and the sinner) 
and an object of suspicion to neither, let Him, the Son 
of God, become man, let Him become the Son of man, " 
and by this kiss establish my confidence. Securely j 
shall I accept the mediation of the Son of God, ve$. 
Whom I recognise a Brother. As my Brother and my 
flesh I can no longer regard Him with suspicion. Nor 
shall He any longer have it in His power to despise 
me, being bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." 

Thus, therefore, the saints of the old time queru- 
lously demanded this holy kiss, that is, the Incarnation 
of the Word, whilst with the long and weary waiting, 
faith got tired and was ready to faint, and the fickle 
people, yielding to impatience, were murmuring against 
the promises of God. This interpretation, my brethren, 
I will confess to be but a baseless fancy of my own, if 
you also do not find it suggested to your minds by the 
words of Scripture. But surely it was this disappoint- 
ment, due to the Messias's delay in coming, that called 
forth cries like the following, expressive of impatience 
and discontent, " Command, command again ! Expect, 
expect again ! A little here, a little there ! " And 
prayers like these, anxious, indeed, but full of fervour : 
" Give, O Lord, a reward to those who hope in Thee, 
that Thy prophets may be found faithful." Also, 
" Stir up, O Lord, the prophecies which the former 
prophets have spoken in Thy name." To the same 






ON THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST 17 

delay must be attributed the joyous and consoling 
promises : " Behold " the Lord " will appear and will 
not lie ; if He should delay, expect Him, because He 
shall surely come and shall not be slack " ; " Her time 
(viz., Israel's time of deliverance) is near and her days 
shall not be lengthened." The next is spoken in the 
person of the Messias Himself : " Behold, I will bring 
upon her as it were a river of peace, and as an over- 
flowing torrent the glory of the gentiles/' Such ex- 
pressions reveal clearly to us both the insistence of the 
preachers and the distrust of the people. Thus, then, 
^the Israelites murmured and their faith was staggered, 
and, in the words of Isaias, " the angels of peace were 
weeping bitterly." Hence, as Christ still delayed His 
advent, lest the whole human race should perish in 
despair, suspecting that the infirmity of its mortal 
condition was despised, and lest it should abandon 
all hope of receiving the promised grace of recon- 
ciliation with the Lord, the saints, who had assurance 
from God in the Spirit, demanded a further assurance 
from Him present in the flesh ; and for the sake of the 
weak and incredulous, they solicited a kiss with all 
importunity as the sign of a peace re-established. 

O " Root of Jesse, Who standest for an Ensign of 
the people ! " How many kings and prophets have 
desired to see Thee and have not seen ! Happier than 
all was Simeon whose " old age was crowned with 
abundant mercy." He exulted in the hope of seeing 
the Pledge of his desire: "he saw It and rejoiced," 
and having received the kiss of peace, departed in 
peace, first proclaiming, however, that Jesus was born 
as "a Sign which should be contradicted." And his 
prophecy was justified in the event. Scarcely had the 



i8 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Sign of peace appeared when It met with contradiction 
from those, namely, who hate peace. To men of good 
will It brought true peace, but to the wicked It became 
"a rock of scandal and a stone of stumbling." So we 
read, " Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with 
him," because " Jesus came unto His own and His 
own received Him not." Happy the shepherds, in 
their nightly watch, who were accounted worthy to 
behold this S ; gn ! Alieady was He beginning to hide 
Himself from the wise and prudent and to reveal Him- 
self to the little ones. Herod also desired to see H'm. 
but not being a man of good will, he did not deserve 
to have his desire gratified ; for the Sign of peace, that 
is, Jesus, was given only to men of good will. No sign 
shall be offered to men like Herod " but the sign of 
Jonas the Prophet." "And this," said the angel to 
the shepherds, "shall be a S'gn to you "—to you who 
are humble, to you who are obedient, who are not 
high-minded, who are vigilant, who " meditate day and 
night on the law of God." "This," he said, "shall 
be a S ; gn to you." What ? That which angels have 
promised, which peoples have asked for, which pro- 
phets have foretold— that the Lord hath now brought 
to pass and showeth to you. It is the S : gn which will 
bring faith to the incredulous, hope to the despairing, 
perseverance to the perfect. "This, therefore, shall be 
a S : gn to you." But a S"gn of what ? A S : gn of pardon, 
a S'gn of grace, a S'gn of peace that shall have no end. 
"Tfrs," then, "shall be a S ; gn to you, you shall find 
the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes" Yes, in- 
deed, but in this Infant you shall find the Great 
Almighty reconciling the world to Himself. " He is to 
die for your sins and to rise again for your justification, 



ON THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST 19 

that justified through faith, you may have peace to- 
wards God." This is the Sign of peace which the 
prophet of old desired King Achaz to ask of the Lord 
his God, " whether in heaven above or in hell beneath." 
But the impious monarch refused, miserably disbeliev- 
ing that in this Sign the lowest depths and the 
highest heights were to be united in peace. This will 
be accomplished when Christ, descending into hell, 
salutes the dwellers there, and to them also gives the 
pledge of peace in a holy kiss; and returning thence to 
heaven, admits the blessed spirits above to the same 
embrace in everlasting sweetness. 

Here I must bring my discourse to an end. But 
permit me to close with a brief recapitulation. It is 
evident, then, that this holy Kiss is a necessary con- 
descension to the world, for two reasons : firstly, in 
order to fortify the faith of the weak ; secondly, in 
order to gratify the desires of the perfect. It is also 
plain, I hope, that this mystical Kiss is nothing else 
than the Mediator between God and men, the Man 
Christ Jesus, Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, 
liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen. 



SERMON III 

On the Mystical Kiss of the Lord's Feet, Hand, 

and Mouth. 

" Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth." 

Our lesson for to-day, my brethren, shall be read 
from the book of experience. Turn your eyes, there- 
fore, upon yourselves and let each examine his con- 
science on what I shall have to say. First of all, I 
should like to know if to any of you it has ever been 
given to say with sincerity, " Let Him kiss me with 
the kiss of His Mouth." For it is not every man that 
can speak thus from his heart. But he who has even 
once received this spiritual kiss from the Lips of Christ, 
such a one will surely solicit again what he has learned 
by experience to relish, and will ask that the favour 
be repeated. In my opinion, no one can even know 
what it is except him who has experienced it. It is a 
V hidden manna/' for which only he who has eaten 
still hungers. It is a " sealed fountain," in which " the 
stranger hath no part " and for which none will thirst 
save him who has drunk thereof. Listen to one who 
had enjoyed the experience, soliciting a repetition of 
the favour. "Render to me," he cries, "the joy of 
Thy salvation." Far, then, be it from a wretch like 
me, laden as I am with sins, still the sport of carnal 
passions, who has never yet tasted the sweetness of 
the spirit, altogether ignorant of and a stranger to in- 
ternal delights— far be it from such a one to make any 
pretensions to a grace so sublime ! 



20 



MYSTICAL KISS OF THE LORD'S FEET 21 

However, I will point out to a soul so favoured the 
position which it becomes her to occupy with regard to 
her Beloved. Let her not rashly try to reach at once 
the Lips of her most serene Bridegroom, but rather, like 
me, let her throw herself in fear at the Feet of her most 
dread Lord, trembling, and with downcast looks, and 
not daring, like the Publican, to lift her gaze to heaven. 
Otherwise, her eyes, accustomed only to darkness, will be 
in danger of being dazzled by the lights of the spiritual 
firmament and overwhelmed by the excess of its glory. 
Or, blinded by the unparalleled splendours of the 
Divine Majesty, they may be overcast with a cloud 
of denser darkness than belonged to their former state. 

whosoever thou be that art such a soul, do not, 

1 implore thee, do not regard as mean or contemptible 
that place where the holy Penitent laid aside her sins 
and clothed herself in the garment of sanctity ! There 
the Ethiopian woman changed her colour, being re- 
stored to the whiteness of her long-lost innocence. 
Then, indeed, she was able to answer those who addressed 
her in words of reproach, "I am black * but beau- 
tiful, O daughters of Jerusalem." Do you wonder, my 
brethren, by what art she effected such a change, or 
by what merits she obtained it ? I will tell you in a 
few words. She " wept bitterly/' she heaved deep 
sighs from her inmost heart, she was agitated in- 
teriorly with salutary sobbings, and thus she spat out 
the venomous humour. The heavenly Physician came 

* This seems to contradict what has been said above of the 
restoration to whiteness. But the contradiction is only ap- 
parent. The justified soul, although given back her innocence, 
and so rendered white by grace, may still be regarded as sinful 
and black by reason of her former guiltiness. — (Translator.) 



22 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

speedily to her aid, because His " word runneth quickly. " 
Is not the word of God a spiritual medicine ? Yes, 
truly, and a medicine that is " strong and active, search- 
ing the heart and the reins. " As the Apostle says, 
"the word of God is living and efficacious and more 
penetrating than any two-edged sword, reaching unto 
the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also 
and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts." 
After the example of this blessed Penitent, do thou 
also, O miserable one, cast thyself down there that thou 
mayst cease to be miserable. Do thou also prostrate 
thyself upon the earth, embrace those Feet, appease 
Them with kisses, bathe Them with thy tears, although 
thereby not Them but thyself wilt thou be cleansing. 
So shalt thou be made as one of the "shorn sheep 
that cometh forth from the washing." Consequently, 
thou wilt not dare to lift up thy face, overwhelmed with 
shame and grief, until thou also hearest the consoling 
words, " Thy sins are forgiven thee " — until thou hearest 
these others, too, " Arise, arise, O captive daughter of 
Si on ! arise, and shake from thee the dust." 

Even after thus impressing the first kiss on the Foot, 
do not raise thyself immediately to the " kiss of the 
Mouth." There is another step to be taken before thou 
canst attain to this, an intervening kiss, which ought 
to be imprinted on the Hand. The necessity for such 
a gradual approach may be explained as follows. If 
Jesus should say to thee, "thy sins are forgiven thee," 
what would this avail, unless I henceforth abstained 
from sin ? I have put off my tunic ; if I again put 
it on, wherein have I profited ? If after washing my 
feet, I soil them again, what have I gained by the 
washing ? Polluted with sins of every description, I 



MYSTICAL KISS OF THE LORD'S FEET 23 

lay prostrate long in the "mire of the dregs." Yet, 
it is a worse thing to relapse after purification than 
never to have been purified at all. For I remember 
that He Who made me whole said to me, " Behold, thou 
art made whole; go, now, sin no more lest something 
worse should happen thee." * But He Who gave me the 
will to repent must also give me the grace of persever- 
ance. Otherwise I shall repeat the crimes I now repent 
of, and make my "last state worse than the first." 
Woe to me, even after my conversion, if He with- 
draws His Hand, without W r hom I can do nothing — abso- 
lutely nothing, either towards the recovery or towards 
the preservation of grace. Hence I hear the Wise 
Man counselling, " Repeat not a word in prayer." 
Another cause of fear to me is the threat pronounced 
by the Judge against the "tree that bringeth not forth 
good fruit." On account of such considerations, I 
confess that the first grace, that is, the grace of repent- 
ance, does not quite content me. I still require a 
second grace, which shall enable me to " bring forth 
fruits worthy of penance," and prevent me from 
" returning to the vomit." 

It behoves me, then, to impetrate the grace of con- 
version and perseverance before I aspire to things 
higher and holier. I do not want to reach all at once 
the summit of sanctity. I prefer to mount thither 
step by step. God is pleased with the modesty of the 
penitent in the same degree in which the sinner's bold- 
ness offends H'm. Thou wilt more easily gain His 
favour by keeping within due bounds, and by not 
ambitioning what is too high for thee. From the Feet 

* Quoted thus with amplification from John v. 14. — 
(Translator.) 



24 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

to the Mouth is a high and difficult leap, and a way of 
approach not quite becoming. What ! Still bestrewn 
with the ashes of penitence, wilt thou dare to touch 
those sacred Lips ? Only yesterday drawn out of the 
mire of thy sins, dost thou want to be admitted to-day 
to the contemplation of the glory of His Countenance ? 
No ! thou canst not attain to that sublimity without 
using the step of His Hand. Let It first cleanse thee, let 
It lift thee up. How shall It do this ? By supplying 
thee with the merits whereon thou mayst presume. 
Dost thou ask what these merits are ? I will tell thee. 
They are the works of piety, viz., the beauty of con- 
tinence and the worthy fruits of penance. By them 
thou shalt be raised up from the dunghill unto the 
hope of hearing greater things. Surely in receiving the 
gifts, thou Wilt not forget to kiss the Hand of the Giver. 
That is, thou must give glory, not to thyself, but to 
His name. And thou must give Him this glory, not' 
alone for His mercy in pardoning thy sins, but also 
for His generosity in adorning thee with virtues. Other- 
wise thou wilt have to see how thou canst harden thy 
forehead against this sharp-pointed reproach of St. 
Paul : " What hast thou which thou hast not received ? 
And if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as 
if thou hadst not received it ? " 

Having thus obtained in these two kisses experi- 
mental proof of the divine benevolence, perhaps thou 
mayst now aspire with security to the third and holier 
kiss. Confidence increases proportionately with our 
grace. Hence it is that whilst thou now lovest more 
ardently, thou dost also ask more confidently for that 
which thou perceivest to be still wanting to thy fulness. 
Now, "everyone that asketh, receiveth." Therefore, I 



MYSTICAL KISS OF THE LORD'S FEET 25 

believe that, to one so disposed, this kiss of infinite 
condescension and indescribable sweetness, whatever it 
may be, will not be denied. This is the way and this 
is the order. First, we cast ourselves at the Feet of 
Christ, and before the Lord Who made us we lament 
the evils which we ourselves have made. Secondly, we 
ask the help of His Hand to lift us up and to " strengthen 
the feeble knees." Thirdly, when we have obtained 
these favours by many prayers and tears, then, at 
last — with fear and trembling I say it — perhaps, then , 
we may venture to raise ourselves to that divinely 
glorious Mouth, not merely to contemplate Its beauty, 
but even to enjoy Its kiss. For "Christ is a Spirit 
before our face/' * with Whom We shall be made one 
Spirit, through His gracious mercy, by uniting our- 
selves to Him in this holy kiss. 

To Thee, Lord Jesus, rightly " to Thee hath my 
heart said : my face hath sought Thee ; Thy Face, O 
Lord, will I still seek, because Thou didst make me 
hear Thy mercy in the morning." That is to say, 
Thou didst pardon my sinful life, when at first I lay 
prostrate in the dust, kissing Thy venerable Feet. 
Afterwards, in the course of the day, "Thou didst 
rejoice the soul of Thy servant," by granting me the 
grace of well-doing in the kiss of Thy Hand. And now 
sweet Lord, what remains except graciously to admit 

* " Spiiitus ante faciem nostram Christus Dominus " (Jer. 
Lament, iv. 20). In the Vulgate we have " Spiritus oris nostri 
Christus Dominus," translated in the Douay Version, " The 
Breath of our mouth, Christ the Lord," which is more in accord 
with the Greek, Uvcvfia TvpoaaiTvov rjpoiv Xpicrros avptos. St. 
Bernard's reading is found with other Fathers also, for instance 
with St. Ambrose. Very likely it is taken from the Itala or 
some other ancient version. — (Translator.) 



26 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

me even to the kiss of Thy Mouth in the plenitude of 
light and in fervour of spirit, and so to "fill me with 
the joy of Thy Countenance " ? Show me, O Most Sweet, 
O Most Amiable, "where Thou feedest, where Thou 
liest in the mid-day ,J ! My brethren, " it is good for 
us to be here," but, behold ! the malice of the day * 
summons us elsewhere. These guests, whose arrival 
has just been announced, compel me to interrupt rather 
than conclude so pleasant a discourse. I go to dis- 
charge the duties of hospitality, lest anything should 
be wanting in the exercise of that charity of which I 
have been speaking, and lest of us also it should be/ 
said, "for they say and do not." Do you meantime 
pray that God may " make pleasing the voluntary 
offerings of my mouth " for your edification and 
unto the praise and glory of His Name. Amen. 

* Reference to Matthew vi. 34 : "Sufficient for the day is 
the evil thereof " (malitia sua). It is assumed in this sermon 
(see p. 24) that merits or good works are the gift of God. Such 
is St. Augustine's teaching: "Merita tua, si bona sunt, Dei 
dona sunt." But if gifts, how merits ? St. Bernard explains 
in chapter xiii. of his book on Grace and Free Will. What is 
a gift as the fruit of God's free grace, is merit as the fruit of 
our co-operation. — (Translator.) 



SERMON IV 

On the Three Stages of the Soul's Progress, 
symbolised by the klss of christ's feet, 
Hand, and Mouth. 

" Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth," 

Yesterday, my brethren, if you recollect, I treated 
of the three stages, so to speak, of the soul's journey 
towards perfection, under the figure of three kisses. 
The same subject shall occupy me in to-day's discourse, 
according as God, in His sweetness, shall deign to pro- 
vide for my poverty. I observed, as you will remember, 
that those three kisses are given in due order — to the 
Feet, to the Hand, and to the Mouth of the Bridegroom. 
By the first we consecrate the beginnings of our con- 
version, the second is the privilege of proficients, whilst 
only the few who attain perfection can experience the 
third. It is from this, which is last in order, that the 
inspired Book, which I have undertaken to expound, 
takes its commencement. The two other kisses I have 
merely introduced on its account, viz., to make its 
meaning and dignity more clearly intelligible. Whether 
their introduction is really necessary to this end, it will 
be for you, my brethren, to judge. To me it seems 
that the very language of the text invites us to the 
consideration of these prerequisite embraces. And I 
shall be surprised if you also do not see that there 
must be some other kiss or kisses from which that of 

the mouth is meant to be distinguished by her who 

27 



28 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

said, " Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth/' 
Otherwise, when it would have sufficed to say, " let 
Him kiss me," why did she add distinctly and explicitly 
and against the common custom and usage in speech, 
" with the kiss of His Mouth " ? The only explanation 
is that thereby she intended to signify that the kiss 
she asked for, though supreme, was not solitary. In 
human society the expressions, "kiss me," or " give 
me a kiss," are familiar enough. But no one ever 
thinks of adding "with your mouth," or "with the 
kiss of your mouth." Why ? Because when persons 
embrace in this manner they present their lips to each 
other, as a matter of course, and without its being 
expressly asked. For instance, the Evangelist, in nar- 
rating how the Traitor Was permitted to salute the Lord, 
simply says, " And he kissed Him," and does not add, 
" with his mouth " or " with the kiss of his mouth." 
And such is the custom of all writers and speakers. 
The threefold distinction of kisses, therefore, corre- 
sponds to three states of the soul, or three stages of her 
progress, fully known and understood only by those 
who have learned them by experience. And this ex- v 
perience is had when our sins are pardoned, or grace 
given for practising virtue, or when our merciful and 
benevolent God unveils His Face to our contemplation, 
so far as, in this mortal life, our weakness can endure 
that vision of glory. 

I will explain more clearly why I call the first and 
second of those favours by the name of kisses. We 
all know that a kiss is a sign of peace. Now, as Holy 
Scripture says, "our sins separate us from God." 
If, then, We break down this wall of separation there 
shall be peace. Hence, when we remove, by penance, 



THREE STAGES OF THE SOUL'S PROGRESS 29 

the obstruction of sin and are reconciled, how can I 
more suitably describe the forgiveness we obtain than 
by naming it the kiss of peace ? Yet it is only the Feet 
we should now presume to kiss. That is to say, our 
penance ought to be humble and shy, as making re- 
paration for the pride of our former transgressions. 
But when, later on, we have been admitted to a certain : 
sweet familiarity by a more abundant infusion of 
grace, whereby We are enabled to live more purely 
and to converse more worthily with God, then We may 
lift up our heads with greater confidence, in order to 
kiss the Hand of our Benefactor, as is the custom 
amongst men . Yet we do this then only when We seek 
in the grace bestowed, not our own glory, but the glory 
of the Giver, ascribing to His bounty, rather than to 
any merit of our own, all that we receive. For if you 
glory not in Him but in yourselves, what is that but 
kissing your own hand rather than the Hand of the 
Lord ? And this, according to holy Job, is " a very 
great iniquity and a denial against the Most High 
God/' Now, if, as Holy Scripture testifies, to seek 
one's own glory is to kiss one's own hand, it follows 
that he who seeks the glory of God may rightly be said 
to kiss His Hand. What I have said is paralleled even 
in human customs. Thus, servants, when begging 
pardon of their offended masters, are wont to kiss their 
feet, whereas the poor kiss the hand of the rich when- 
ever they receive an alms. 

However, as God is a Spirit, a simple Substance with 
no distinction of corporeal members, there may be some 
who will raise objections to what I have been saying. 
I may be challenged to show that the Deity has 
and Feet which can be kissed in the way I have 



30 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

described. But what if I, in my turn, ask such critics to 
explain to me how the words of Scripture concerning 
this kiss of the Mouth are to be undei stood of God ? 
For in whatever sense He may be said to possess a 
Mouth, in the same I may speak of Him as having 
Hands and Feet. And, contrariwise, in so far as He 
lacks the latter members, He lacks the former, too. 
But, in truth, God has a Mouth by which He " teaches 
men knowledge," and He has Hands by which He gives 
" food to all flesh," and He has Feet whereof the " earth 
is the footstool " — which signifies that sinners of the earth 
turn to these Feet, and prostrating themselves there, 
make due satisfaction. All such members and faculties, 
I say, God possesses, not formally or materially, but 
spiritually and virtually. Assuredly, no one will deny 
that humble contrition finds in Him something answer- 
ing to feet, before which it may cast itself down ; that 
fervent devotion finds something answering to hands, 
which strengthens it by renewing its vigour ; that 
joyous contemplation, too, finds something correspond- 
ing to a mouth, which, as by a kiss, gives content and 
rest to its rapturous love. He is all things to all Who 
governs all, and yet is not properly any of all. For, 
as He is in Himself, " He dwelleth in light inaccessible," 
and His " peace surpasseth all understanding," and " of 
His wisdom there is no number," and " of His great- 
ness there is no end." Neither can any " man see 
Him and live." Not, indeed, that He is far from any 
of His creatures, for He is, in a sense, the Being of all, 
without Whom all are nothing ; but because — and this 
will increase your astonishment — just as there is nothing 
more intimate to us than He, so is there nothing more 
incomprehensible. What, I ask, is more intimate to 



THREE STAGES OF THE SOUL'S PROGRESS 31 

each than his being ? Yet what more incomprehensible 
than the Being of all things ? Of course, I am speaking 
of God as the Being of all His creatures, not in the sense 
that they are what He is, but because " from Him, and 
by Him, and in Him are all." The Creator, then, is 
the Being of all that He has made, but efficiently, not 
formally. It is thus that the Divine Majesty con- 
descends to be to His creatures, the Being of all that 
are, the Life of all that live, the Light of all that think, 
the Virtue of all who use that Light well, and the Crown 
of all who conquer. And in creating, governing, admin- 
istering, moving, predetermining, renewing, establishing 
these various orders of things, He has need of no cor- 
poreal instruments, Who, with a single word, created all 
things, material and immaterial. Human souls require 
bodies and bodily senses in order to know and io act 
upon each other. Not so the Almighty. From His 
own Will exclusively He derives the energy required 
for producing creatures and ordering them as He pleases. 
His power reaches to whatsoever He wills, and as He 
wills, without need or use for corporeal members. Or 
do you suppose that He depends on the service of a 
bodily sense to contemplate the things which His Hands 
have made ? No ! He is the L ; ght omnipresent which 
nothing can ever escape, yet He needs not the ministry 
of sensitive faculties to put Him in possession of knowl- 
edge. And not alone does He know all things without 
a bodily medium, but also, without a bodily medium 
He reveals Himself to the clean of heart. I will enlarge 
upon this in order to make it plainer. But as the time 
that remains is too short to allow me to say all I have 
to say, it will be wiser to reserve the rest until 
to-morrow. 



f 



SERMON V 
On the Four Orders of Spirits. 

" Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth." 

There are, as you know, my brethren, four distinct 
kinds of spirits, the irrational, the human, the angelic, 
and the Divine, the last being the Creator of all the 
others. Of these various orders, there is none but 
requires a body, natural or assumed, either for its 
own use, or for the needs of others, or for the sake 
both of itself and others — none, save the fourth, to 
Whom all creatures, whether corporeal or incorporeal, 
truly confess and say, " Thou art my God, because 
Thou dost not need my goods." In the first place, it 
is evident that the irrational spirit is so dependent on 
its body that without its support it cannot exist at all. 
When the brute dies its spirit ceases to be at the same 
moment at which it ceases to vivify. Our spirits, on 
the other hand, survive our bodies ; yet to those things 
which make life really happy, we have no means of at- 
taining except through the bodies. This truth was not 
unknown to him who said, " The invisible things of God 
are clearly seer, being understood by the things that 
are made." For "the things that are made," that is, 
those corporeal and visible things, cannot enter into 
our knowledge except through the avenues of our 
bodily senses. The human soul, therefore, spiritual 
creature though she be, has need of a body, as without 
the help of this she could never acquire that science 

32 



ON THE FOUR ORDERS OF SPIRITS 33 

which, like a ladder, enables her to mount up to those 
higher realities, in the contemplation of which she finds 
her happiness. Here the case of infants who die soon 
after baptism may be urged against me as an objection. 
Our faith teaches us that the souls of such, departing 
the present life without the knowledge of sensible 
things are, nevertheless, admitted to the bliss of heaven. 
I answer briefly that they have this, not as a right from 
nature, but as a privilege from grace. Hence, as I am 
speaking now only of what happens in the ordinary 
course and by natural law, no argument against me 
can be derived from such extraordinary interpositions. 
That bodies are necessary, even to angelic spirits, is 
sufficiently evident from that true and truly inspired 
utterance of the Apostle : " Are they not ministering 
spirits, sent to minister for those who shall receive the 
inheritance of salvation ? " How, therefore, could they 
exercise their ministry without bodies, especially with 
regard to those who dwell in bodies ? Moreover, it is 
only bodily substances * that can traverse space, and 
pass from one point to another. Yet we have it on 
authority, as indubitable as well known, that the 
angels frequently do this. Hence it is that they 
appeared to the fathers, entered their dwellings, eat 
with them, and had their feet washed. Thus, both 

* This opinion, now abandoned, has been defended by philo- 
sophers before and after St. Bernard. Even Aristotle himself 
distinctly teaches that the indivisible is per se incapable of locomo- 
tion. Indeed, it seems to have been this difficulty of conceiving 
how that which has no extension in space, can yet, of itself, pass 
from one point of space to another, that led so many doctors 
to rega r d the angelic nature as essentially material. And hence, 
when the latter view lost favour, the former was also discredited. 
For the various scholastic theories of angelic locomotion, see 
Suarez, De Avgelis, Bk. IV. chap, i.-xxiv. — (Translator.) 
It c 



34 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the angelic and the brute spirit have need of bodies, 
but rather as instruments to be employed for the 
good of others than as sources of benefit to them- 
selves. The brute, as under a natural law of slavery, 
subserves human interests by ministering to our tem- 
poral and corporeal necessities. Consequently, its spirit 
passes with time and is extinguished with the body ; 
for "the slave abideth not in the house for ever." 
Yet if we use the slave as we ought, we shall turn 
the benefit of its temporal service into merit for our- 
selves of an eternal reward. But the angels, in the 
spirit of liberty, are anxiously solicitous to exercise 
towards us the offices of piety, and show themselves 
to mortals as willing and eager ministers " of future 
goods," recognising in us their predestined com- 
panions for eternity and the co-heirs of their own 
immortal felicity. The irrational spirits, therefore, 
serve us from necessity, the angelic out of love ; and,/ 
doubtless, it is as a means of benefiting us that both 
have need of bodies. What advantage they themselves 
derive therefrom, I am unable to see — at any rate with 
regard to eternity. The brute, indeed, by means of the 
body, is able to perceive corporeal objects. But surely 
it has not the power, by the help of such material 
and concrete impressions as bodily senses supply, to 
raise itself to the perception of spiritual and intel- 
lectual realities. Nevertheless, whilst unable itself to 
attain to such knowledge, it helps thereto, as we know, 
by its corporeal and temporal service, those amongst 
men who strive to draw eternal profit from the use of 
all transitory things, " using the world as though they 
used it not." 

But the blessed angels above, without the aid of a 



ON THE FOUR ORDERS OF SPIRITS 35 

body and without the intuition of objects perceptible 
to bodily senses, by the mere spirituality and subtlety 
of their natures, are capable alike of comprehending 
what is most exalted and of penetrating what is most 
profound. The Apostle evidently realised this, because 
after saying that " the invisible things of God are clearly 
seen, being understood by the things that are made," 
he immediately added, " by the creature of the world," 
that is, of the earth.* He thus indicates that the 
same is not true of the creatures of heaven. For those 
objects of contemplation to which the human spirit, 
imprisoned in the flesh and dwelling here below, en- 
deavours to rise, little by little and step by step, from 
the consideration of material things, the same are 
reached swiftly and easily by the angelic citizens of 
heaven, owing to their native sublimity and penetra- 
tion, without any dependence on corporeal sense, 
without any assistance from bodily members, without 
any intuition of material things. Why should they 
seek in bodies for those spiritual communications which 
they can read in the Book of Life without any contra- 
diction, and understand without any difficulty ? Why 1 
should they labour in the sweat of their brow to winnow 
the grain from the chaff, to press out the wine from the 
grapes, or the oil from the olives, when they have an 
abundance and a superabundance of such things ready 
to hand ? Who, having plenty at home, would beg his 
bread from door to door ? Who would dig a well and 
laboriously search for water in the bowels of the earth, 
whilst a living, natural fountain poured its limpid 

* So the holy Preacher interprets the expression "a creatura 
mundi," which indeed can bear this translation, although the 
usual rendering is " from the creation of the world." The Greek 
is equally ambiguous. — (Translator.) 






36 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

treasures with unfailing generosity at his feet ? There- 
fore, neither the angelic nor irrational spirits derive any 
assistance from their bodies as regards the acquisition 
of that knowledge which can make the intelligent 
creature happy. The latter, as being naturally stupid, 
lack the capacity for such enlightenment ; the former, 
as enjoying the prerogative of a more excellent glory, 
have no need of it. But the spirit of man, occupying 
the middle place between the angelic and the brute, 
has need of a body for its own advancement in knowl- 
edge and for rendering service to others. Thus, to say 
nothing of the other bodily members or their functions, 
how, I ask, could instruction be imparted without a 
corporeal tongue, or attended to without corporeal 
ears ? 

As, therefoie, without the help of a body the servile 
spirit of the brute cannot discharge the duty of its 
condition, nor the heavenly and angelic exercise the 
offices of piety, nor the rational spirit of man suffice . 
to consult for its own or its neighbour's salvation, it 
follows that every created spirit requires the agency 
of bodily members, either solely on account of others 
or for the sake both of itself and others. But what if 
there be found some irrational creatures of which we 
can discover no use and which minister to no human 
necessity ? I answer that, although not otherwise 
useful, they render us more Important service by fur- 
nishing objects of contemplation to our minds, than they 
could possibly do by supplying the needs of our bod}\ 
Even allowing that some are dangerous and detri- 
mental to man's material well-being, still their bodies 
do not lack wherewith to " co-operate unto good to 
such as, according to His purpose, are called to be 






ON THE FOUR ORDERS OF SPIRITS 37 

saints." And if they do not serve us by becoming 
our food, or by otherwise accomplishing our purposes, 
they do so, at least, by exercising our intelligence, ac- 
cording to that measure and method of instruction, 
common to all who enjoy the use of reason, whereby 
the invisible things of God are clearly seen, being under- 
stood by the things that are made." The devil and 
his satellites are, indeed, always intent on evil and 
always desire our hurt. But God forbid that they 
should have the power to harm those who are " zealous 
of good," to whom it is said, " and who is he that 
can hurt you if you be zealous of good ? " Rather 
they benefit them, even in spite of themselves, and 
" co-operate unto good " for those who are themselves 
good. 

As to whether the angelic bodies,* like the human, 
are naturally united to their indwelling spirits, so that 
the angel, just as man, is an animal, only differing from 
us in being immortal, which we are not as yet ; whether 
these celestial creatures can change their bodies at their 
pleasure, and appear, when they wish to appear, in 
whatever shape and form they like, condensing and 
solidifying as they please the material envelopes which, 
nevertheless, in their own real nature by reason of the 
subtlety of their essence are entirely impalpable and 
imperceptible to our senses ; or whether, finally, they 
subsist as simple spiritual substances, which, when they 
have need, assume to themselves a body, and lay it down 

* The Saint's uncertainty as to whether the angels are pure 
spirits (expressed also in the De Considerations, Bk. V. c. iv.), 
will not surprise us when we remember that in his time this 
question was still an open one, with grave authorities on either 
side. Now, however, the consensus of theologians has settled 
the question in favour of immateriality.— (Translator.) 



38 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

again, when no longer necessary, to be dissolved into 
the elements whence it was formed — to these questions, 
my brethren, do not look to me for an answer. The 
fathers seem to have held different views on the matter. 
And for myself, I confess I do not see my way clear to 
teach one thing or the other. However, I do not sup- 
pose that knowledge of this kmd would contribute 
much towards our advancement in virtue. 

Yet be assured of this, that no created spirit can 
directly act upon our souls. I mean to say, that with- 
out the medium of a bodily instrument, whether its own 
or ours, no creature has the power of so communicating 
and infusing itself into our minds as thereby to render 
us learned or more learned, virtuous or more virtuous.* 
No angelic, no human spirit is capable of affecting me 
in this way, any more than I am capable of so affecting 
them. The blessed angels have not even this power 
with regard to each other. It is, therefore, the incom- 
municable prerogative of that supreme and all-pervad- N 
ing Spirit, Who alone " teach eth knowledge" to angels 
and men, without requiring on the creature's side the 
medium of a bodily ear, or on His own the instrumenta- 

* Quoted by Suarez, De Angelis, Bk. VI. chap, xvi., as con- 
firmatory of his thesis that angels can act upon the human mind 
only indirectly, through the medium of the imagination. St. 
Bernard expresses himself more clearly on this question in his 
work De Consider atione, Bk. V. chap, v., where he says that 
" an angel is present to the soul not as working good in her, but 
merely as suggesting good thoughts ; not as making her virtuous, 
but only as inciting her to virtue. But the Divine Indwelling 
affects the soul immediately by an infusion of graces, or rather 
by an infusion and communication of the Divine Substance 
Itself, so that God may be said to be one spirit with ours, although 
not one person or one substance. The angel, therefore, is with 
the soul, but God is in her. The angel is present as the soul's 
companion, God as her life." — (Translator.) 



ON THE FOUR ORDERS OF SPIRITS 39 

lity of a material tongue. This Divine Spirit communi- 
cates Himself directly, He reveals Himself directly, and 
pure Himself, is readily perceived by pure minds. He 
alone has need of rfothing, being alone sufficient for Him- 
self, and, in virtue of His omnipotent Will, for all be- 
sides. Nevertheless, He exercises great and innumerable 
operations by means of His subject creatures, material 
and immaterial. But He does so rather as commanding 
than as soliciting. See, for example, how He makes 
use now of my corporeal tongue to do His work in in- 
structing you, although He could, doubtless, instruct 
you Himself directly with infinitely greater facility and 
sweetness. His employment of my agency is, therefore, 
not a dependence on, but a condescension to me. So 
in promoting your spiritual interests by my means what 
He seeks is not assistance for Himself but merit for me. 

Such, my brethren, must be the conviction of every 
man engaged in doing good, lest perchance he should 
begin to glory in himself on account of the gifts of God, 
instead of glorying in the Lord. Yet there are some who 
do good against their will, namely, wicked men and 
fallen angels. In this case, it is clear the good that 
is done by their means is not done for their sakes, 
since no goodness can benefit a free agent without his 
consent. Hence such unwilling instruments have but 
the dispensation of whatever good they perform. Yet 
somehow or other, we experience greater satisfaction 
and pleasure in the benefits conferred upon us by these 
wicked dispensers than in any others. And perhaps 
this is the reason why God makes use of the wicked 
to benefit the just, rather than any need He has of 
their co-operation in well-doing. 

If the Almighty stands in no need of angels or men, 



4 o ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

much less, doubtless, does He depend on creatures 
which lack either reason alone or both sense and 
reason. Consequently, their concurrence in good makes 
it apparent how " all things serve Him," Who can 
truly say, " The earth is Mine." Or at any rate, it 
may be said that He employs such agencies, not 
because He needs their help, but only for reasons of 
fitness, as knowing from what particular causes par- 
ticular effects might most fittingly proceed. Whilst, 
then, the ministry of bodies is often and suitably 
exercised in accomplishing the divine purposes, as, 
for instance, in quickening seed, in multiplying crops, 
and in ripening fruit, what need has He of a body 
of His own, Whose will is manifestly obeyed by all 
bodies, celestial and terrestrial, without distinction as 
without delay ? Such a body, surely, would be super- 
fluous in Him Who finds no body not His own. But 
to say all that occurs to be said on this subject would 
prolong this discourse beyond all reasonable limits, 
and perhaps overtax the powers of some of you. 
Let us, therefore, reserve what remains for another 
sermon.* 



* In this sermon the Saint seems to contradict himself, in 
one place positively affirming that the angels have need of 
bodies, and in another confessing his ignorance. But the two 
positions are quite consistent. He is certain that the angels 
require a body to act on matter — which is the common opinion ; 
his doubt concerns the question as to whether bodies belong to 
their essential constitution. — (Translator.) 



SERMON VI 
On the Kiss of the Lord's Feet. 

" Let Him kiss me with tlic kiss of His Mouth." 

In order to connect the present with my last dis- 
course, I wish you, my brethren, to recall what I said 
yesterday, namely, that only the supreme and all- 
pervading Spirit is independent of bodily service and 
agency in all that He wills to do or to be done. Let 
us, then, confidently vindicate for God alone a perfect 
immateriality, just as in Him alone we recognise a 
perfect immortality.* Let us be convinced that He 
alone amongst all spirits transcends corporeal nature 
to such an extent, that for no operation whatsoever 
is He in any sense dependent on material instruments. 
His mere spiritual fiat is adequate to the accomplish- 
ment of all He wills to effect and when He wills. There- 
fore, that Divine Majesty alone stands in need of no 
co-operation of bodily members either for His own sake 
or for the sake of His creatures. To His almighty 
Will accomplishment always answers promptly and 

* The Saint evidently means that God alone possesses both 
intrinsic and extrinsic immortality. The former, common to 
all spiritual substances, is simply immunity from death by 
corruption of essence. The latter means indestructibility by 
external force, and is incommunicable to creatures, being but 
another name for self-existence. St. Thomas (Summ. Theol., 
p. I. q. LI.) comments on this passage, and shows that it does 
not necessarily exclude the view of the immateriality of the 
angels. — (Translator.) 

4i 



42 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

immediately, everything exalted bends, everything 
contrary yields, everything created renders obedience, 
without His requiring thereto the assistance of any 
intermediate agency, spiritual or corporeal. Without 
a tongue He teaches and admonishes, without hands 
He gives and holds, without feet He runs to the 
help of those who are perishing. So He acted even 
with the generations of the olden time. Men were 
constantly enjoying His benefits, but of their Bene- 
factor Himself, they had no knowledge. Even then 
was He " reaching from end to end mightily " ; yet 
they did not observe Him, because He was at the 
same time " disposing all things sweetly." And so they 
rejoiced in the gifts of God, whilst the Lord of the Sab- 
bath, as judging all with tranquillity, remained entirely 
unknown and unnoticed. From Him they were, but 
they w r ere not with Him. By Him they lived, but they 
lived not to Him. From Him they had understanding, 
but not of Him, apostates, ingrates, fools that they 
were ! Hence it came to pass that they attributed 
their being, their life, and their intelligence, not to the 
Creator, but some to nature, others more stupidly, to 
chance. Many also ascribed to their own industry and 
virtue what were but multiplied gifts from above. The 
evil spirits, too, by their own craft, were credited with 
the authorship of innumerable divine benefactions, as 
well as the sun and moon, the earth and the water, and 
even the works of human hands ! Plants, trees, the 
most minute and contemptible seeds Were Worshipped 
as gods ! 

Alas, my brethren, it was thus that men lost and 
" changed their glory into the likeness of a calf that 
eateth grass '* ! But God, compassionating their ignor- 



ON THE KISS OF THE LORD'S FEET 43 

ance, deigned to issue forth from His hill of clouds 
and shadows and "hath set His tabernacle in the 
sun." He presented Himself in flesh to those who 
relished only things of the flesh, in order thereby to 
lead them to relish the things of the spiiit. For whilst 
in the flesh He did not the works of the flesh, but the 
works of God, commanding nature, over-ruling her 
laws, stultifjdng the wisdom of men, and beating down 
the tyranny of demons ; and in this way He clearly 
showed that it was by His power such miracles had 
ever been performed, even in the times previous to 
His coming. Thus, I say, by publicly and powerfully 
working wonders, in the flesh and by the flesh, by an- 
nouncing the truths of salvation, and by enduring the 
indignities of His Passion, He made it plainly manifest 
that it was He Who powerfully , if invisibly, created the 
world, Who wisely governs it and lovingly protects it. 
And when He preached the Gospel to the ungrateful, 
and offered signs to unbelievers, and prayed for His 
executioners, did He not thus evidently indicate that 
He is the same Who, with the Father, makes His sun 
to rise daily " on the good and the wicked and rains 
upon the just and the unjust " ? This is what He said 
Himself : " If I do not the works of My Father, believe 
Me not." 

Behold, my brethren, He Who without words teaches 
the angels in heaven, now opens His Mouth of flesh 
to teach the disciples on the mount ! Behold, at 
the touch of His corporeal Hand, lepers are cleansed, 
sight is given to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech 
to the dumb, and the sinking Apostle is raised to se- 
curity ; and thus He stands revealed as the Benefactor 
to Whom the Prophet David had said long before, 



44 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

"Thou openest Thy Hand and fillest with blessing 
every living creature/' and, "When Thou openest 
Thy Hand they shall all be filled with good." Behold, 
the Magdalen, now penitent and prostrate at His Feet 
of flesh, hears the sentence of pardon, " Thy sins are 
forgiven thee." And by this she recognises Him of 
Whom she had read what was Written centuries earlier, 
"The devil shall go out before His Feet." For where 
her sins were pardoned, there doubtless the devil was 
expelled from her heart. Hence, the Saviour said, 
speaking generally of all penitents, " Now is the judg- 
ment of the world, now the prince of this world shall 
be cast out." That is to say, God will forgive sins 
when humbly confessed, and so Satan shall lose the 
dominion which he had usurped over the sinner's heart. 
Again, He walks on the waves with His bodily Feet, 
as the Prophet sang of Him before He had as yet re- 
vealed Himself in the flesh, "Thy way is in the sea 
and Thy paths in many waters." As if he should say, 
" Thou shalt trample down the swelling ambitions of 
the proud, and bridle the fluctuating passions of the 
flesh," which, indeed, He does by justifying the wicked 
and humbling the high-minded. Yet, because this is 
done invisibly, the carnal man cannot perceive by 
Whom it is accomplished. Hence the Psalmist adds, 
"and Thy footsteps shall not be known." Hence, 
also, the Father said to the Son, " Sit Thou at My 
right hand until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool," 
that is, " until I make all who despise Thee submit to 
Thy will, either unwillingly and to their destruction, or 
voluntarily and to their bliss." But this work of the 
Spirit was not perceptible to flesh, for " the sensual man 
perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God." 



ON THE KISS OF THE LORD'S FEET 45 

Therefore it was necessary that the contrite Magdalen 
should prostrate herself bodily at His bodily Feet, 
and, kissing these same Feet with her bodily lips, so 
obtain the pardon of her sins. And thus can "this 
change of the Right Hand of the Most High," whereby 
He marvellously, though invisibly, justifies the impious, 
be made manifest even to carnal minds. 

I must not, however, pass over those spiritual Feet of 
the Lord, which it is necessary that the penitent should, 
in the first place, kiss spiritually. For well I know, my 
brethren, how piously curious you are with regard to 
such matters, and how you would like to let nothing 
go unscrutinised. Nor does it seem to me that We 
should gain nothing by knowing what are those Feet, 
wherewith Holy Scripture represents God at one time 
as standing, as in the verse, " We shall adore in the 
place where His Feet have stood " ; at another as 
walking : "I will dwell with them and will walk 
amongst them " ; and at still another as running : 
"He exulted as a giant to run His course. " If, then, 
the Apostle considered it right to refer the Head* of 
Christ to His Divinity, it ought not to appear unreason- 
able in me if I understand His Feet as signifying His 
Humanity. These Feet I consider to be mercy and 
justice. The two words are familiar enough to you. 
They occur together, if you remember, in numerous 
passages of Scripture. Now, that the Lord assumed the 
Foot of mercy together With the Flesh to which He 
is united, is evident from the Epistle to the Hebrews. 

* The allusion is to 1 Cor. xi. 3 : " But I would have you 
know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the 
woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God." The Saint's 
interpretation is merely an accommodation. — (Translator.) 



46 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Therein we read that Christ " was tempted in all 
things like as we are, without sin," " that He might 
become merciful." As regards the second Foot, which 
I take to mean justice, does not the Incarnate Word 
Himself plainly imply that it also was assumed with 
and belongs to the Humanity, where He declares that 
the Father has given Him " power to do judgment 
because He is the Son of Man " ? 

Moving evenly, therefore, on these two spiritual Feet, 
under the guidance of the Divinity as Head, the invisible 
Emmanuel, " born of a woman, made under the law," 
revealed Himself on earth and conversed amongst men. 
With these same Feet He is still, though spiritually 
now and invisibly, " going about doing good and heal- 
ing all that are oppressed by the devil." With these, 
I say, He walks through living souls, constantly illu- 
minating them, and searching the " hearts and reins " 
of the faithful. But, see, lest perchance these should be 
the Legs of the Bridegroom, which, in a following verse, 
the Bride praises so magnificently, comparing them, if I 
remember aright, to " pillars of marble, set upon bases of 
gold." This description is extremely beautiful, because 
" mercy and truth," that is to say, justice, signified by 
the Legs, " have met " in the Incarnate Wisdom of God, 
and gold is the symbol of wisdom. Furthermore, " All 
the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." 

Happy the man, my brethren, in whose soul the 
Lord Jesus sets both these Feet of His ! By two signs 
you may recognise him, for one so privileged must 
of necessity bear upon him the impress of the divine 
footsteps. These footprints are hope and fear ; the 
latter impressed by justice, the former by mercy. Truly 
" the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, and 



ON THE KISS OF THE LORD'S FEET 47 

in them that hope in His mercy," because " fear is the 
beginning of wisdom," as hope is its development. As 
for the consummation of wisdom, We must pronounce 
that to be charity. Such being the case, you will 
understand that there is no small advantage in this 
first kiss, which is given to the Feet. Only you have 
to make sure of kissing both, omitting neither. When 
you feel a sincere sorrow for your sins, and a fear of 
the divine judgment, you have pressed your lips to 
the Foot of truth and justice. And if you moderate 
your terror and grief by the consideration of the divine 
goodness and by the hope of obtaining pardon, be 
assured that you have also kissed the Foot of mercy. 
But to kiss one without the other is not expedient. 
The thought of justice a] one will cast you into the gulf 
of despair, whilst a deceptive reliance on mercy will 
engender a most dangerous sense of security. 

Even to me, miserable as I am, it has sometimes 
been given to sit at the Feet of the Lord Jesus, and 
to embrace, with all devotion, now one, now the other, 
in so far as His gracious mercy deigned to permit. 
But whenever, under the sting of my conscience, I 
lost sight of the divine mercy, and clung a little too 
long to the Foot of justice, immediately I became 
oppressed with an indescribable terror and a miserable 
confusion, and, enveloped in a most horrible darkness, 
I could only cry tremblingly " from out of the depths," 
' Who knoweth the power of Thy anger, and for Thy 
fear can number Thy wrath ? " Yet if, leaving the 
Foot of justice, I should chance to lay hold on that of 
mercy, such carelessness and negligence took instant 
possession of me, that I straightway grew more tepid 
at prayer, more slothful at work, more ready for 



4 8 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

laughter, more imprudent in speech — in short, my 
whole being, body and soul, showed evidence of greater 
inconstancy. Therefore, taught by experience, no 
longer judgment alone or mercy alone, but both " mercy 
and judgment I will sing to Thee, O Lord." " Thy 
justifications I will never forget." Both these, Thy 
mercy and Thy justice, shall be "the subjects of my 
song in the place of my pilgrimage," until, mercy 
having been exalted over justice, misery " shall shut her 
month," so that thenceforward only "my glory may 
sing to Thee and I shall not regret." 



SERMON VII 

On the Love of the Spouse, and on the Attention 
due to the word of god. 

" Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth** 

I have brought trouble upon myself, my brethren, 
by needlessly exciting your pious curiosity. Because, 
in connexion with the first kiss, I was at pains to ex- 
plain, and at unnecessary length, the spiritual Feet of 
the Lord, with their special names and significations, 
you are now anxious for an explanation of the Hand 
which, as I have said, must be kissed in the second 
place. Well, I am not unwilling to gratify youi wishes. 
Nay, I will speak not of one Hand, but of two, and 
will give to each its proper name. Let the one be called 
Liberality, the other Fortitude. With the former God 
gives abundantly, with the latter He protects what 
He has bestowed. If We are not to be reputed ingrates, 
we shall kiss both, by acknowledging and proclaiming 
Him, not only as the Author of all good, but as the 
Preserver of the same. Let this suffice for the first 
and the second kiss. We must now proceed to the 
consideration of the third. 

" Let Him kiss me," she says, " with the kiss of 
His Mouth." Who is she that makes the request ? It 
is the Spouse. But who is this Spouse ? The Spouse 
here, my brethren, is the soul that thirsts after God. 
I will now run over the various species and mani- 
festations of human affection or disposition, in order 

that you may the more clearly perceive which one 
I. 49 d 



50 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

appertains to the Spouse. If thou be a slave, thou 
dost fear the face of thy lord ; if thou be a mercen- 
ary, thou dost hope to receive thine hire at his hands ; 
if thou be a disciple, thou dost attend to the instruc- 
tions of thy master ; if thou be a son ? thou dost 
honour him who is thy father ; but if thou be a lover, 
thou wilt ask thy beloved for a kiss. Amongst the 
natural emotions of the human soul, this affection of 
love holds the first place, especially when it reverts to 
its first Principle, which is God. No words can be found 
sweet enough to convey an idea of the tenderness of 
the mutual affection of the Divine Word and the soul, 
except the names Bridegroom and Bride. 'For persons 
so related have all things in common. Nothing can be 
either appropriated to the one or sequestered from the 
other. They must have one and the same inheritance, 
one and the same hearth and home, one and the same 
table, in a word, they are one and the same flesh. So 
it is written, " For this cause shall a man leave father 
and mother and shall cleave to his wife, for they shall 
be two in one flesh." And the Bride, on her side, is 
commanded to " forget her people and her father's 
house/' in order that the Bridegroom may " desire 
her beauty." Since, therefore, love belongs especially 
and chiefly to persons espoused, the name of Spouse 
or Bride may justly be given to the soul that loves 
God. Now, the soul that asks a kiss is the soul that 
loves. She petitions not for liberty, not for a reward, 
not for an inheritance, not even for knowledge, but 
only for a kiss. And this request she makes after the 
manner of a most chaste spouse, burning with a most 
holy love, and altogether powerless to conceal the flame 
which consumes her. See with what impatient abrupt- 






ON THE LOVE OF THE SPOUSE 51 

ness she begins her speech. Although she is about to 
solicit a great privilege from a great Personage, she does 
not, as others are wont to do in similar circumstances, 
make use of the arts of blandishments ; she does not 
approach her object by any winding ways or circum- 
locutions. There is no preface, no attempt to conciliate 
favour. From the abundance of her heart, without 
shame or shyness, she breaks out with the eager request, 
" Let Him kiss me With the kiss of His Mouth." Does 
she not seem to you to say clearly, " What have I in 
heaven and besides Thee, What do I desire upon earth ? " 
Assuredly, she loves with a pure love, who seeks nothing 
of Him Whom she loves, but only Himself. She loves 
with a holy love, because her love springs not from the 
passions of the flesh, but from the purity of the Spirit. 
She loves With an ardent love who is so inebriated with 
love as to lose sight of the Majesty of her Beloved. 
What ! "He looketh upon the earth and maketh it 
tremble," and she dares to ask that He should kiss 
her ! Is she not manifestly intoxicated ? No doubt 
of it. And perchance when she cried out thus im- 
petuously she had just come forth from the " wine- 
cellar," into which, namely, she afterwards boasts of 
having been introduced. So David, speaking of certain 
souls, said to God, " They shall be inebriated with the 
plenty of Thy house, and Thou shall make them drink 
of the torrent of Thy pleasure." Oh, how mighty is 
the power of Jove ! How great confidence in liberty of 
spirit ! What can be plainer than that perfect love 
"casteth out fear" ? 

Yet from modesty she addresses her request, not to 
the Spouse Himself, but to others, as it were, in His ab- 
sence. " Let Him kiss me," she exclaims, " with the kiss 



52 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

of His Mouth." An extraordinary petition, to be sure, 
and one needing the companionship of modesty to com- 
mend the petitioner. Consequently she seeks through 
domestics and familiars for admission to the sanctuary, 
and access to the Object of her love. But who, my 
brethren, are these domestics and familiars ? We be- 
lieve that the holy angels stand near us when we pray 
and offer to God our petitions and desires. But only 
when they see us lifting up pure hands to heaven, with- 
out any feelings of anger or dissension in our hearts. 
This is evident from. the words of the Angel to Tobias : 
"When thou didst pray with tears, and didst buiy 
the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the 
dead by day in thy house and bury them by night, 
I offered thy prayer to the Lord." The same, as I think, 
can be also sufficiently established by other passages 
from Scripture. Thus, that the angels, by condescen- 
sion, are even wont to associate themselves with us 
when we are singing psalms to the Lord, is clearly 
indicated by the Prophet, where he says, " Princes 
went before joined with singers, in the midst of young 
damsels playing on timbrels." Hence also his words, 
" In the sight of the angels I will sing to Thee." It 
is, therefore, a cause of grief to me that some of you 
allow 3'ourselves to be oppressed with a heavy drowsi- 
ness during the holy vigils, and so fail in reverence for 
these citizens of heaven, appearing as dead men in the 
presence of the princes. Whenever they are attracted 
by your fervent alacrity, they take great pleasure in 
assisting at our solemnities. But I fear, lest, disgusted 
at your sloth, they may sometimes retire * in anger, 

* Commenting on these words, Blessed Albert the Great tells 
us not to understand them as signifying that men are some- 



ON THE LOVE OF THE SPOUSE 53 

and then, all too late, each of you should begin to 
say to God with tears, " Thou hast put away my ac- 
quaintance far from me : they have set me an abomi- 
nation to themselves." Also, " Friend and neighbour 
Thou hast put far from me, and my acquaintance, 
because of my misery." Likewise, " My friends and 
my neighbours have drawn near and stood against 
me, and they that were near me stood afar off, and 
they that sought my soul used violence." For if the 
good angels withdraw from us, who will be able to 
resist the assaults of the malignant ? I say, therefore, 
to him who thus yields to sloth, "cursed be he that 
doth the work of God negligently." And it is not 
I but the Lord Who says, " I would thou wert cold 
or hot, but because thou art lukewarm, and neither 
cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of My 
Mouth." Be attentive, then, my brethren, to these 
angelic princes, when you are engaged in prayer or 
psalmody ; comport yourselves with reverence and 
modesty, and glory in the knowledge that your angels 
daily "see the Face of your Father." Being "sent to 
minister for them that shall receive the inheritance of 
salvation," they ascend to God to offer Him our de- 
votions, and return to us laden with His graces. Let 
us profit by the ministrations of those celestial spirits 
who honour us with their company, so that praise 
may be " perfected out of the mouths of infants and 
sucklings." Let us say to them, " Sing praises to our 

times abandoned by their angel guardians, in punishment of 
their infidelities. St. Bernard, he says, only means that sin 
may render our angels less zealous or less efficacious in assist- 
ing us. Similarly, Suarez, De Angelis, Bk. VI. chap. xvii. — 
(Translator.) 



54 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

God, sing ye," and let us hear them, in turn, answering, 
" Sing praises to our King, sing ye." 

Since, therefore, it is your privilege to sing the 
praises of God in common with the heavenly choristers, 
as being " fellow-citizens with the saints and domestics 
of God," " sing ye wisely." As sweet food is pleasing 
to the palate, so is a psalm to the heart. Only let the 
devout and prudent soul be careful to grind it with 
the teeth of her intelligence, if I may use the expression, 
and not gulp it down whole and unmasticated, for 
otherwise the spiritual palate cannot enjoy the taste, 
pleasant and " sweet above honey and the honey- 
comb." Let us offer Christ a honey-comb, like the 
Apostles, at the celestial banquet and the table of the 
Lord. Just as the honey is found in the comb, so 
should devotion be felt in the words, f or " the letter 
killeth " if swallowed down without this seasoning of 
the Spirit. But if, like St. Paul, you "sing in the 
spirit, and sing also with the understanding," you, 
too, shall recognise the truth of what Jesus said, " The 
words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life." 
You shall likewise understand the saying of Wisdom, 
" My Spirit is sweet above honey." So " shall your 
soul be delighted in fatness," and " your whole burnt- 
offering be made fat." So shall you appease the King, 
and gain the favour of His princes, and secure to your- 
selves the good will of all the heavenly court. The 
blessed above, " smelling a sweet savour " in heaven, 
shall say of you also, " Who is she that goeth up by 
the desert as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, 
of myrrh, and frankincense, and of all the powders 
of the perfumer ? " As David sings, " The princes of 
Juda are their leaders, the princes of Zabulon, the 



ON THE LOVE OF THE SPOUSE 55 

princes of Nephthali." That is to say, the angels act 
as leaders for those who sing the praises of God, who 
observe continence, and are given to divine contem- 
plation. For well do these our princes know how 
pleasing to their King are the laudation of our psal- 
mody, the constancy of our temperance, and the purity 
of our contemplation. Hence they are careful to de- 
mand from us such first-fruits of the Spirit, which are 
really nothing else than the first and fairest fruits of 
wisdom. You are aware, of course, that Juda s ; gnifies 
in the Hebrew " one praising or confessing," Zabulon 
"the dwelling of strength," and Nephthali "the stag 
set free." The stag, indeed, by reason of his agility 
and powers of leaping, is a figure which admirably 
expresses the spiritual ecstasies of the contemplative. 
Also, just as that animal is wont to penetrate the 
shadows of the forest, so is the contemplative accus- 
tomed to pierce through the obscurity of mystical 
meanings. 

We know, too, my brethren, Who it was that said, 
"The sacrifice of praise shall honour Me." But as 
" praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner," is 
it not of absolute necessity that it should be accom- 
panied by the virtue of continence, which will secure 
that " sin shall not reign in your mortal body " ? Yet 
that continence which seeks human glory, has no merit 
in the eyes of God. Indispensably necessary, therefore, 
is purity of intention, whereby the soul has the wish 
to please Him alone and the power to unite herself 
to Him closely. Now, to be united to God is simply 
to see God, and this is granted only to the clean of 
heart, as their special prerogative. A clean heart had 
the Prophet David, who said to the Lord, "My soul 



56 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

hath stuck close to Thee,' ' and, " But it is good for me to 
cleave to God." By seeing he cleaved, and he saw by 
cleaving. To the soul, then, that is Well exercised in 
the virtues just mentioned, the messengers of heaven 
manifest themselves familiarly and frequently, par- 
ticularly if they observe her to be assiduous at prayer. 
Who will grant me that my "petitions may be made 
known to the household of God " through your media- 
tion, O benevolent princes ! * Not merely to God, for 
to Him even "the thought of man confesseth," but 
to the household of God, so as to include also those 
who dwell with Him, both blessed angels and beatified 
souls of men. I am " needy " — who Will "raise " me 
"up from the earth " ? lam" poor "—who will " lift " 
me "up out of the dung-hill," that so "I may sit 
with princes and hold the throne of glory " ? Yet 
I doubt not they will gladly introduce into the palace 
one whom they condescend to visit even on the " dung- 
hill." And if they rejoice at our conversion, can they 
despise us when we have been exalted in glory ? 

In my opinion, therefore, it is these ministering 
spirits to whom the Spouse, in her prayer, addresses 
herself and opens her heart, as being the domestics 
and friends of the Bridegroom, when she says, " Let 
Him kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth." And notice 
the familiar and friendly conversation of a soul still im- 
prisoned in the flesh, with these celestial powers. She 

* It may be worth while to mention here a vision once vouch- 
safed to the Servant of God. During the office of Matins he 
beheld an angel standing beside each religious and recording 
the merit of his devotion. Some were writing in gold, some in 
silver, others in ink, and others again in water. This distinc- 
tion, he was given to understand, symbolised variety in degrees 
of fervour. — (Translator.) 



ON THE LOVE OF THE SPOUSE 57 

is eager to be kissed ; she asks what she desires ; yet 
she does not name Him Whom she loves. The reason 
is that she feels sure they do not require to be told, 
since He is the ordinary subject of conversation between 
herself and them. Hence she does not say, " Let this or 
that one kiss me," but only f,< Let Him kiss me." So, 
Mary Magdalen did not mention by name Him Whom 
she was seeking, but merely said to the Stranger Whom 
she believed to be the gardener, " Sir, if thou hast 
taken Him away." Taken whom ? She does not specify, 
because she thought that what her own heart could 
not for a moment forget, must be equally present to the 
thoughts of every one. In the same manner the Spouse, 
speaking to the companions of the Bridegroom, to 
whom, as she was aware, her secret was known, sup- 
pressed her Beloved's name, and broke out abruptly 
with the request, " Let Him kiss me with the kiss of 
His Mouth." About this kiss, my brethren, I will 
say no more to-day. But in to-morrow's discourse you 
shall hear whatever thereon, in answer to your prayer, 
the grace of the Holy Spirit, Who teacheth all things, 
shall further inspire me with. For it is not by flesh 
and blood that this secret is revealed, but by the Holy 
Ghost, " Who searcheth the deep things of God," Who 
proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and liveth 
and reigneth with Them for evermore. Amen. 



SERMON VIII 

On the Kiss of the Mouth interpreted of the 

Holy Spirit. 

" Let Him kiss me with the hiss of His Mouth." 

To-day, my brethren, in fulfilment of the promise 
made in my last sermon, I purpose to speak more 
particularly of the supreme kiss, that is to say, of 
the kiss of the Mouth.* And as this kiss is sweeter 
than the other two, viz., those of the Feet and of the 
Hand, more rarely enjoyed, and more difficult to 
comprehend, the present discourse demands from you 
a more than ordinary attention. To begin on a level 
more lofty than usual, it appears to me that He Who 
said, " No one knoweth the Son but the Father, 
neither doth anyone know the Father but the Son, 
and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him," 

* Elsewhere the Saint writes : "I'm sure no person of 
prudence will find fault with me for giving various interpre- 
tations of the same text, provided I say nothing contrary to 
tru.h. For charity, which every part of Holy Scripture is 
intended to subserve, will be able to accomplish its work of 
edification all the more efficaciously in proportion to the number 
of apt expositions discoverable for each passage. Why should 
we condemn in scriptural exegesis what we are constantly doing 
in the use of other things ? How many are the purposes for 
which water, v.g., is employed ! In the same way, from any 
text of Scripture it is possible to extract a variety of true s gni- 
fications, adapted to the necessity or use of different souls." — 
(Translator.) 

58 



ON THE KISS OF THE MOUTH 59 

by these Words designated a kind of kiss which is 
altogether ineffable and incommunicable to any creature. 
" For the Father loveth the Son " and embraces Him 
with an infinite affection, as the Supreme His Co-equal, 
the Eternal His Co-Eternal, the One His Only-Begotten. 
But not less for Him is the love of the Son, Who even 
died for the love of the Father, as He Himself testifies 
when He says, " That all may know that I love the 
Father, arise, let us go." He spoke evidently of going 
to His Passion. Now, what is that mutual love and 
knowledge between Father and Son but a most sweet 
and incomprehensible kiss ? 

I, at any rate, hold it as certain that no creature, not 
excepting even the angels, is admitted to a compre- 
hension of this secret of love, so great and so holy. 
St. Paul was of the same mind when he affirmed that 
this " peace surpasseth all understanding," the angelic 
understanding included. Hence not even the Spouse, 
although otherwise daring enough, would yet venture 
to say, "let Him kiss me with His Mouth" for she 
reserved that to the Father. But she asks for some- 
thing less in the request, " Let Him kiss me with the 
kiss of His Mouth." Do you wish to behold this new 
Spouse receiving the new kiss, not from the Mouth, 
but from " the Kiss of His mouth " ? "He breathed 
on them," says the Evangelist, namely, Jesus on the 
apostles, that is, on the primitive Church, " and said, 
Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Assuredly that Was a kiss. 
What ? The corporeal exhalation ? No, my brethren, 
but the invisible Spirit. And the reason Why He was 
communicated by the Lord's breathing was this, in order 
that we should understand that He proceeds from the 
Son in like manner as from the Father, being truly 



60 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

a Divine Kiss, common to the Mouth That kisses and 
the Mouth That is kissed. Consequently, it is enough 
for the Spouse to be kissed " with the Kiss " of the 
Bridegroom, without being kissed with His Mouth. For 
it is no small thing, nor a matter deserving of but slight 
esteem, to be kissed with that Kiss, namely, to receive 
an infusion of the Holy Spirit. This should not seem 
fanciful ; because if I am right in regarding the Father 
as the Mouth That kisses, and the Son as the Mouth 
That is kissed, I cannot be very far wrong in under- 
standing by the Kiss Itself the Divine Spirit, Who 
is the imperturbable Peace of the Father and Son, the 
everlasting Bond, the undivided Love, the indivisible 
Unity. 

It is, therefore, with regard to Him that the Spouse 
is so venturesome, and she confidently asks, using the 
image of a kiss, that He would deign to infuse Himself 
into her heart. If she is so daring, it is because she 
has heard something which appears to encourage her 
presumption. For has she not heard the Son saying, 
"No one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither 
doth any one know the Father but the Son," and 
adding, "and he to whom it shall please the Son to 
reveal Him " ? But she has no doubt that the Bride- 
groom Would be pleased to make this revelation to His 
Bride before all others. Hence she boldly asks a kiss, 
that is, the Holy Spirit, in Whom are revealed both the 
Father and the Son. One, indeed, cannot be known 
Without the Other. Hence the Lord said, "He who 
seeth Me seeth My Father also." And St. John, 
" Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the 
Father ; he that confesseth the Son, hath also the 
Father." From this it is evident that neither the 



ON THE KISS OF THE MOUTH 61 

Father can be known without the Son, nor the Son 
without the Father. Rightly, then, is supreme felicity 
made to consist, not in the knowledge of One or Other, 
but of Both, by Him Who says, "This is eternal life, 
that they may know Thee, the only true God, and 
Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent." Finally, those 
who follow the Lamb are said to have His name and 
the name of the Father written on their foreheads, 
which means that they rejoice in the knowledge of 
Both. 

But some one may here object and say, " Therefore 
the knowledge of the Holy Ghost is not essential to 
our happiness, because when Christ declared that 
eternal life consisted in knowing the Father and the 
Son, He said nothing of the Third Person." Nothing 
explicitly, I grant you. But when the Father and the 
Son are perfectly known, known also must assuredly 
be the Holy Spirit, Who is the common Goodness of 
the Two. Even one human being cannot be fully known 
to another so long as it is uncertain whether his dis- 
position is good or evil. Yet even when the Saviour 
said, "This is eternal life that they may know Thee, 
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast 
sent," if this mission demonstrates the good- will both 
of the Father, Who so lovingly sent His Son, and of 
the Son, Who so freely obeyed His Father, even then, 
I say, He was not silent respecting the Spirit, for He 
made mention of that infinite Loving-kindness common 
to Both. And is not the Holy Ghost the Love and 
the Kindness of Father and Son ? 

Consequently, the Spouse, in requesting a kiss, prays 
for the grace of this threefold knowledge, so much, 
at least, as is possible for her to receive whilst still 



62 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

in the flesh. And she asks this of the Son to Whom 
it belongs to reveal the Father " to whomsoever it 
shall please Him." The Son, therefore, reveals both 
Himself and His Father to such as He pleases. But 
the revelation is made by a Kiss, that is, by the Holy 
Spirit, as the Apostle witnesses, when he says, " But 
to us God hath revealed Them by His Spirit." Now 
in giving the Spirit by Whom He reveals the Father 
and Son, He also reveals the Spirit Himself. He re- 
veals by giving, and by revealing He gives.* Be- 
sides, the revelation which is made by the Holy 
Spirit not only communicates the light of knowledge, 
but also enkindles the flames of love. Hence the 
words of St. Paul, " The charity of God is shed abroad 
in our hearts by the Holy Ghost Who is given to us." 
And perhaps this is the reason why, with regard 
to those, who " knowing God, did not glorify Him 
as God," we do not read that they got their knowledge 
by revelation of the Holy Ghost. Because, namely, 
their knowledge Was not accompanied by love. The 
Apostle simply says, "for God had manifested it unto 
them," and does not add " by His Spirit." Otherwise, 
the kiss, which is the privilege of the Spouse, Would 
be usurped by impious souls, who, content with the 
knowledge that " puffeth up," are unconcerned for 
the charity that " edifieth." But St. Paul himself 
shall tell us whence they derived their knowledge of 
God. They " perceived " Him, he says, " by the things 
that are made, being understood." Hence it is manifest 
that they could not have known Him perfectly Whom 
they loved not at all. For had they possessed such 

* " Dando revelat et dat revelando." St. Bernard is very 
fond of such inverted expressions. — (Translator.) 



OX THE KISS OF THE MOUTH 63 

perfect knowledge, they surely would not have been 
ignorant of that infinite goodness wherewith He willed 
to be born in the flesh and to die for their redemption. 
Hear now what attributes of God were revealed to 
them: "His eternal power also and Divinity." You 
see how, in the presumption of a spirit not divine but 
human, they investigated His attributes of sublimity 
and majesty, but failed to understand that He was 
"meek and humble of Heart."' This should not sur- 
prise us, since Behemoth, their chief, " sees everything 
high," as is Written of him, but nothing that is lowly. 
David, on the contrary, would not " Walk in great 
matters nor in wonderful things above " him, lest, as 
a " searcher into majesty,"* he should " be overwhelmed 
by glory." 

Do you, also, my brethren, if you Would pick your 
steps cautiously amidst such nrysteries of truth, ever 
bear in mind the counsel of the Wise Man, " Seek 
not the things that are too high for thee, and search 
not into things above thy ability." In matters of this 
nature, walk in the Spirit, not by the light of your 
own intelligence. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit does 
not excite curiosity, but rather enkindles charity. 
Justly, therefore, does the Spouse, in seeking Him 
" Whom her soul loveth," refuse to put her trust in 
the senses of the flesh, or to be satisfied with the vain 
reasonings of human curiosity. But she solicits a kiss, 
that is, she invokes the Holy Spirit from Whom she 
shr.ll obtain both the food of knowledge and the season- 
ing of grace. That is true knowledge which is imparted 
by means of a kiss, and is accepted with love, because 
a kiss is the token of love, Consequently, the " knowl- 
edge " which "puffeth up," which is unaccompanied 



64 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

by charity, does not proceed from a kiss. But neither 
can this kiss of love be claimed by those who indeed 
"have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." 
For the grace of the kiss communicates at once both 
the light of knowledge and the warmth of love. It 
is in truth " the Spirit of wisdom and understanding," 
Who, like the bee bearing wax and honey, has where- 
with to light the lamp of knowledge and to infuse the 
sweetness of devotion. Wherefore, let not him who 
has understanding of truth without love, nor him 
who has love without understanding, ever imagine he 
has received this kiss. With it error and coldness are 
alike incompatible. So, for the reception of the twofold 
grace of this all-holy kiss, let the Spouse on her part 
get ready her two lips, namely, her intelligence for 
"understanding," and her will for "wisdom." Thus, 
glorying in a perfect kiss, she will deserve to hear these 
words of consolation, " Grace is poured abroad on 
thy Hps, therefore hath God blessed thee for ever." 
Accordingly, the Father, when kissing His Son, 
" uttereth " most fully to Him the secrets of His 
Divinity. This Holy Scripture indicates to us by the 
words, " Day to Day uttereth speech." But this eternal 
and divinely- sweet embrace it is given to no creature 
whatsoever to behold, as I have already remarked, 
the Holy Spirit, common to Father and Son, being the 
sole witness and confidant of Their mutual knowledge 
and love. " For who hath known the mind of the Lord, 
or who hath Him his counsellor ? " 

But perchance some one will say to me : " How then 
hast thou come to know what thou confessest has been 
revealed to no creature ? " I have an obvious answer. 
" The Only- Begotten, Who is in the Bosom of the 



ON THE KISS OF THE MOUTH 65 

Father, He hath declared Him," not indeed to me, miser- 
able and unworthy as I am, but to the holy Baptist, 
the "friend of the Bridegroom," whose words these 
are. And not only to him, but also to St. John the 
Evangelist, as being " the disciple whom Jesus loved." 
For his soul, too, was pleasing to God, truly worthy 
both of the name and of the dowry of a spouse, worthy 
of the embrace of the Bridegroom, even worthy of 
the privilege of reclining on the Bosom of the Lord. 
St. John derived from the Heart of the Only-Begotten, 
what He derived from His Father's, but not the 
Evangelist alone. The same is true of all to whom 
" the Angel of the Great Counsel " addressed the words, 
" I have called you friends, because all things What- 
soever I have heard of my Father I have made known 
to you." From the same Heart was derived the 
knowledge of St. Paul who received his Gospel " not 
from man, nor through man, but by revelation from 
Jesus Christ." Most certainly, all these could say with 
as much joy as veracity, "The Only-Begotten, Who 
is in the Bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." 
And what, my brethren, was this "declaration" but 
a kiss bestowed on them ? Yet it was the kiss of the 
Kiss, not the Kiss of the Mouth. Listen : " I and the 
Father are One " — there you have the Kiss of the 
Mouth. Also here, " I am in the Father and the Father 
in Me." This is the Kiss from Mouth to Mouth. But 
let no creature presume to claim It. It is a Kiss of 
love and of peace. But that love " surpasseth all 
knowledge," as that peace " surpasseth all under- 
standing." Nevertheless, what " eye hath not seen, 
nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart 

of man," that God revealed to St. Paul by His Spirit, 
1. E 



66 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

that is, by "the Kiss of His Mouth." Therefore, the 
mutual Indwelling of the Son in the Father and of 
the Father in the Son is the Kiss of the Mouth. The 
kiss of the Kiss is that of which We read, " For we 
have not received the spirit of this world, but the 
Spirit That is of God that we may know the things 
that are given us from God." 

In order to make the distinction clearer, I say that 
He, Who receives the plenitude, receives the Kiss of 
the Mouth ; and he, who receives of the plenitude, 
receives the kiss of the Kiss. A great saint indeed 
is Paul. Yet however high he can raise his mouth, 
although he can reach up to the third heaven, he can 
never attain to the Lips of the Most High. Let him 
be content with his own measure, and as he cannot 
mount to that " Face of glory," let him humbly pray 
that It would stoop to his level and send down a kiss 
from above. But He, Who "thought it not robbery 
to be equal With God," so that He could say, " I and 
the Father are One," as He is associated with the 
Father as an Equal, embraces Him also as an Equal, 
and, instead of soliciting a kiss from a lower level, 
at an equal elevation presses Mouth to Mouth, thus, 
by a singular prerogative, receiving the Kiss of the 
Mouth. Christ's Kiss, consequently, is the plenitude, 
Paul's but a participation. The Master can boast of 
having obtained the Kiss of the Mouth ; the disciple 
the kiss of the Kiss. 

Yet happy is that kiss of participation whereby we 
not only know God, but also love the Father, Who, 
without doubt, is not fully known until He is perfectly 
loved. My brethren, is there amongst you one who 
sometimes, in the depths of his heart, hears the Spirit 



ON THE KISS OF THE MOUTH 67 

of the Son " crying Abba, Father " ? If such there be, 
let him feel assured of the love of the Father, for 
he has the testimony of his own conscience that he 
is led by the same Spirit as the Son. O soul who art 
such, whosoever thou be, have courage, have con- 
fidence, and fear nothing. In the Spirit of Christ thou 
canst recognise thyself as the daughter of the Father 
and as the spouse and sister of the Son. Spouse and 
sister, both these titles may be found applied in Sacred 
Scripture to the soul that is such. This I can show 
without much labour. Thus, the Bridegroom says to 
His Bride, " I am come into My garden, O My Sister, 
My Spouse." She is a Sister as having the same Father, 
a Spouse as having the same Spirit. If carnal matri- 
mony unites two in one flesh, why should not spiritual 
nuptials have greater efficacy to conjoin two in one 
Spirit ? Moreover,we have the testimony of St. Paul 
that " He that cleaveth to God is one Spirit." But 
hear also from the Father how lovingly and how con- 
descendingly He calls the faithful soul His daughter, 
and yet invites her as the bride of His Son to the 
embraces of that Son : "Hear, O daughter ! and see, 
and incline thine ear, and forget thy people and thy 
father's house, and the King shall desire thy beauty." 
Behold from Whom this spouse demands a kiss. O 
happy soul ! take care and be reverent, because He 
is the Lord Thy God, perhaps not so much to be 
kissed as to be adored with the Father and the Holy 
Ghost for ever and ever. Amen. 



SERMON IX 

On the Breasts of the Bridegroom and of the 

Spouse. 

" Let Him hiss me with the kiss of His Mouth, tor Thy Breasts 
are better than wine." 

Let us now, my brethren, return to our text and 
explain the Words of the Spouse and What follows. 
These words, spoken abruptly without the least intro- 
duction, hang unsteadily so to speak, and loosely swing 
in air, for want of a beginning or context. It is, there- 
fore, necessary that something be premised to which 
they may intelligibly cohere. Let us accordingly sup- 
pose that those, whom I have called the friends of the 
Bridegroom, as yesterday and the day before, so also 
to-day have come on a visit to salute the Spouse. Find- 
ing her discontented, and complaining, and out of 
humour, they wonder what the cause can be, and ad- 
dress her in this manner : " What has happened ? How 
is it we see thee more sad than usual ? Wherefore these 
unexpected complaints and murmurs ? Certainly, after 
returning at length to thy lawful Husband, and only 
When compelled to do so by the ill-treatment of the 
other lovers after whom thou hadst gone so disloyally 
and unfaithfully, certainly, thou didst importune Him 
with prayers and tears to allow thee even to kiss His 
Feet. Is it not so ? " " Yes," she answers. " What 
then ? Having obtained thy request, and the pardon 
of thy infidelities at the same time in the kiss of His 

Foot, didst thou not again grow discontented ? Not 

68 



ON THE BREASTS OF THE SPOUSE 69 

satisfied with so much condescension, but desiring 
greater familiarity, with the same insistence as before 
thou didst now implore and obtain the second grace, 
and with the kiss of the Hand Wast adorned With virtues 
neither few in number nor little in importance. Thou 
dost admit all this ? " "I do," she replies. "Art not thou 
the one who used to protest and promise that, if ever 
she was admitted to the kiss of the Hand, this would 
be enough for her, and thereafter she would ask for 
nothing more ? " " The same," she confesses. " What 
then ? Perhaps thou wilt complain that some of the 
graces already bestowed have been taken back ? " 
"No, indeed." "Or, it may be that thou art afraid 
thou shalt be called upon to answer for the sins of thy 
past life, which, it was thy hope, had been forgiven ? " 
" Not even that." " Well then, tell us what is wrong and 
how we can help thee." " I cannot rest," she exclaims, 
"until He kisses me with the kiss of His Mouth. I 
am thankful for being allowed to kiss His Feet. I am 
grateful for the privilege of kissing His Hand. But if 
He has any care for me, ' let Him kiss me with the 
kiss of His Mouth.' I am not, I repeat, ungrateful, 
but — I love. What I have already obtained is, I ac- 
knowledge, too much for my desert, yet altogether too 
little for my desire. I am governed more by desire 
than by reason. Do not, I beg of you, blame my pre- 
sumption, since affection urges me on. Modesty re- 
monstrates, but love is supreme. I am not ignorant 
that 'the honour of the King loveth judgment.' But 
headlong love will not wait for judgment, will not 
suffer the restraints of counsel, will not be held in 
check by modesty, will not follow the guidance of 
r "n. I beg, I entreat, I implore, 'let Him kiss me 






70 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

with the kiss of His Mouth.' Lo ! these many years, 
for His sake, I have been careful to lead a chaste and 
sober life ; I have applied myself with diligence to 
spiritual reading ; I have resisted my evil passions ; I 
have watched against temptation ; I have been con- 
stant in prayer ; I have ' recounted my years in the 
bitterness of my soul ! ' As far as was possible to me, 
I have, I think, lived without reproach amongst my 
brethren. I have been obedient to my superiors, going 
out and coming in according to the command of autho- 
rity. So far from coveting my neighbour's goods, I 
have rather given him my own and myself with them. 
In the sweat of my brow have I eaten my bread. Yet 
in all these painful exercises I have felt nothing save 
the monotonous drudgery of routine, unseasoned with 
sweetness. What am I but, according to the Prophet, 
as ' the heifer of Ephraim taught to love to tread out 
the corn ' ? In the Gospel, he is reputed a useless 
servant who only does what he is obliged to do. I 
am, perhaps, in some way faithfully observing the 
commandments, yet, even in that observance ' my soul 
is as earth without water.' In order, therefore, that 
my whole burnt- offering may be made fat,' ' let Him, 
I implore, ' kiss me with the kiss of His Mouth.' " 

Many of you, as I remember, in the manifestations 
of conscience which you make to me privately, are 
wont to complain of this aridity and languor of soul, 
this heaviness and dulness of mind, whereby you are 
rendered incapable of penetrating the profound and 
hidden things of God, and can experience little or 
none of the sweetness of the Spirit. What is that, my 
brethren, but a longing to be kissed ? Plainly, such 
persons are sighing and yearning after the Spr :4 ft3* 



ON THE BREASTS OF THE SPOUSE 71 

wisdom and understanding. They want understand- 
ing to direct them to the goal. They want wisdom 
to relish what understanding * reveals. It was, I 
think, with such sentiments the Prophet prayed when 
he said, " Let my soul be filled as with marrow 
and fatness, and my mouth shall praise Thee with 
joyful lips*" That is to say, he w'anted a kiss, 
and such a kiss as would by the contact, suffuse his 
lips With the oil of special grace, and thus bring 
about the fulfilment of the Wish he gives expression to 
elsewhere : " Let my mouth be filled With praise, that 
I may sing Thy glory, Thy greatness all the day long." 
Then, after tasting, he cries out, " How great is the 
multitude of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which Thou 
hast hidden for them that fear Thee ! " But, perhaps, 
I have delayed long enough over this kiss, although, 
candidly, I doubt as to whether I have as yet spoken 
anything worthy of the subject. However, since, after 
all, it is better learned when impressed in act than 
when expressed in words, we may now pass on. 

The text continues : " For Thy breasts are better 
than wine, smelling sweet of the best ointments." 

* This distinction between understanding and wisdom, so 
familiar with mystical writers, has its foundation in etymology, 
as St. Bernard elsewhere points out, sapientia (wisdom) being 
derived from the verb sapere (to relish). To the mystic, accord- 
ingly, wisdom is the savour or seasoning of science — knowledge 
with love. It includes the light of knowledge or understanding 
to which it adds the heat of devotion. This heat even strengthens 
the light it accompanies, and hence we shall find St. Bernard, 
later on, substituting for St. Anselm's Credo ut intelligam (I 
believe that I may understand) the mystical formula Amo ut 
intelligam (I love that I may understand). Thus, to the mind 
of our Saint, mere understanding or knowledge stands to wisdom 
in pretty much the same relation as the cold starlight to the 
warm sunshine. — (Translator.) 



72 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Whose words these are, we are not informed. Hence 
it is left for the commentator to determine the person 
to whom they most properly belong. As for me, I 
think I can see reasons for assigning them either to 
the Spouse, or to the Bridegroom, or to the friends of 
the Bridegroom. And, in the first place, I will point 
out how fitly they may be regarded as coming from the 
Spouse. Whilst she is conversing With the familiars of 
her Beloved, lo ! He of Whom they speak approaches. 
For He willingly draws nigh to those Who are talking 
about Him. Such has ever been His custom. Thus, 
to the disciples journeying to Emmaus and conversing 
about Jesus, He joined Himself as a pleasant and 
sociable companion. This is what He promises in the 
Gospel : " Where two or three are gathered together 
in My name, there am I in the midst of them " ; and 
also by His Prophet : " Before they shall call, I will 
hear, and whilst yet they are speaking I Will hear." 
So now He comes uninvited to the Spouse and her 
companions, and, delighted With their Words, antici- 
pates their prayers. T believe, indeed, that sometimes 
He does not even Wait for words, but is drawn to us 
by our very thoughts. Hence, he who was found " a 
man according to the heart " of God, tells us that 
" The Lord hath heard the desire of the poor, Thine 
Ear hath heard the preparation of their heart." Do 
you, therefore, my brethren, Watch over yourselves in 
every place, as knowing yourselves to be ever under 
the Eye of that God W'ho " searcheth the hearts and 
the reins," " Who hath made the hearts of everyone 
of " you, Who " understandeth all your works." The 
Spouse, accordingly, observing the presence of her 
Beloved, breaks off abruptly in her speech. She feels 



ON THE BREASTS OF THE SPOUSE 73 

ashamed of her presumption in which, as she perceives, 
she has been discovered by Him. It had seemed to her 
that the way to compass her design least at variance with 
the rules of modesty, would be to engage the services 
of the friends of the Bridegroom and use them 
as intermediaries. She presently turns to the Bride- 
groom Himself, and she tries to excuse her presumption 
as well as she can, saying, " For Thy breasts are better 
than wine, smelling sweet of the best ointments." As 
if she should say, " If I appear to Thee ambitious, the 
fault lies with Thyself, O my Bridegroom, Who suckled 
me so condescendingly on the sweetness of Thy 
Breasts. Thus, all fear being banished rather by Thy 
love rather than by my temerity, I have been more 
daring, perhaps, than is expedient. So my imprudence 
results from mindfulness of Thy love to me and for- 
getfulness of Thy Majesty." Let these remarks be 
understood as merely supplying a context for the 
Words of the Canticle. We have now to see what means 
this strange commendation of the Bridegroom's Breasts. 
These two Breasts of the Beloved are simply the two 
proofs He offers us of the benignity of His Nature, in 
patiently waiting for the sinner's return to Him, and 
affectionately receiving the penitent. A twofold sweet- 
ness of most delicious savour, I say, exudes from the 
Breast of the Lord Jesus, namely, long-suffering in 
expectation and readiness in forgiving. Lest you should 
consider this but a fancy of my own, I Will give you 
scriptural testimony of it. Concerning long-suffering 
We read, " Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness 
and patience and long-suffering ? " Again, " Knowest 
thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to 
penance." Hence, if He delays long before pronounc- 



74 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

ing the sentence of punishment against the sinner, the 
reason is, because He desires rather to bestow the grace 
of pardon upon the penitent. " For He willeth not the 
death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live." 
Let me now give you testimonies regarding the second 
Breast which I have interpreted to mean facility in 
pardoning. Concerning it we read, " In whatever hour 
the sinner shall repent, his sin shall be forgiven him." 
Also, " Let the wicked forsake his Way, and the unjust 
man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and 
He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He is 
bountiful to forgive." David beautifully comprehends 
in a few words both these Divine Breasts, Where he 
says that the Lord is " long-suffering and plenteous in 
mercy." The Spouse, therefore, acknowledges that, by 
the experience of this twofold mercy, her confidence 
has increased to such an extent as to embolden her to 
ask for a kiss. " What wonder, O my Beloved ! " we may 
fancy her saying, " if I make so bold with Thee after 
being allowed to draw from Thy Breasts such an abund- 
ance of sweetness ? So it is no reliance on my own 
merits, but the sweetness of Thy Breasts that makes me 
so daring." Hence, the meaning of the expression, 
" Thy Breasts are better than wine," may be understood 
to be this : " The oil of divine grace that flows from 
Thy Breasts is more useful to me for my spiritual 
progress than are the reproofs, Wine-like in their pun- 
gency, of my human superiors. And not alone are 
' Thy Breasts better than wine,' but they also ' smell 
sweet of the best ointments.' That is to say, not only 
dost Thou nourish those who are present with the 
milk of spiritual sweetness, but Thou dost also shed 
around them that are absent the sweet odour of a 



ON THE BREASTS OF. THE SPOUSE 75 

worthy esteem of Thyself, thus 'having good testi- 
mony both from those who are without and from those 
who are within.' Thou hast, I say, milk within and 
ointments without, because unless Thou didst first 
attract us by the odour of Thy ointments, there would 
be none to refresh with the sweetness of Thy milk." 
As to these ointments, and whether they suggest aught 
that is deserving of consideration, we shall see after- 
wards when we come to the verse, " We will run after 
Thee to the odour of Thy ointments." Now, according 
to my promise, let us examine if the same words, 
which I have just explained as spoken by the Spouse, 
may not also be ascribed to the Bridegroom. 

As she is speaking of her Beloved, suddenly, as I 
have said, He Himself appears. He complies with her 
request, and bestows the kiss, thus fulfilling in her 
regard the word which is written, " Thou hast given " 
her her " heart's desire, and hast not withh olden from " 
her " the will of her lips." The filling of her breasts 
bears witness to this. So great, my brethren, is the 
efficacy of this holy kiss, that, directly it is received, 
it causes the breasts to swell out with an abundance 
of spiritual milk. Those amongst you who are most 
given to prayer understand what I am saying from 
their own experience. How often do we not draw near 
to the altar with dry and tepid hearts ! But whilst 
we persevere in prayer, suddenly there is an infusion 
of grace, our hearts swell, our whole interior is deluged 
with an inundation of piety, and, were there but some- 
one to press, the milk of sweetness engendered would 
be neither slow nor scanty in coming. Thus, then, the 
Bridegroom may say to the espoused soul, " Now, My 
Spouse, thou hast received what thou didst ask for, and 



76 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the proof of it is this, that thy breasts are become 
better than wine. From the fulness of thy breasts 
thou mayst infer that the kiss solicited has been be- 
stowed upon thee. Behold, they are now distended and, 
in the abundance of milk, made better than the wine 
of worldly knowledge, which inebriates indeed, but 
with curiosity, not with charity, filling rather than 
nourishing, inflating rather than edifying, producing 
satiety rather than strength." 

Let us next consider the same words as if spoken by 
the friends of the Bridegroom. " Unreasonably," they 
protest, " dost thou, O Spouse, complain of thy Be- 
loved, because what He has already granted thee is 
of more value than that which thou now requirest. 
The object of thy present desire will no doubt give 
thee pleasure. Yet the breasts, from which thou 
feedest the children of thy womb, are better, that is, 
are more necessary, than the wine of contemplation 
for which thou prayest. The latter is the wine that 
■ rejoiceth the heart of (the individual) man,' but the 
former is the charity that edifies the multitude. If 
Rachel, that is, the exercises of the contemplative life, 
be the more fair, Lia, to wit, the active ministry, is 
the more fruitful. Do not, then, devote too much 
time to the kisses of contemplation, for better are the 
breasts of preaching."* 

* The Saint is here manifestly comparing the active life with 
the contemplative merely from the point of view of our neigh- 
bour's necessity. But in many places elsewhere he considers 
the two states according to their intrinsic dignity and per- 
fection, and gives a decided preference to the life of contem- 
plation, as being the closest approximation to the life of heaven. 
Thus, in his treatise De Modo Vivendi, he says : " The active 
life is good indeed, but far better is the contemplative." And 
in his third sermon on the Assumption, he calls the contem- 



ON THE BREASTS OF THE SPOUSE 77 

There is, besides, another possible interpretation, 
which indeed I had not intended to propose to you, 
but Which, as it seems to me now, ought not to be 
passed over. For why should we not suppose that 
these words of the Canticle belong most properly to the 
" little ones," of whom the Spouse, as mother or nurse, 
has solicitous charge ? Such " little ones," that is to say, 
immature and tender souls, cannot endure with patience 
that she should give herself to repose, by whose doc- 
trine and example they desire to be more fully in- 
structed and edified. And in a subsequent verse we read 
of their being severely checked in their troublesome 
restiveness and forbidden to awaken the Spouse until 
she herself wishes. These children, therefore, when they 
notice her eager for kisses, seeking seclusion, avoiding 

plative life the " better part " (optimam partem). It is worth 
noting that the reason he assigns for his preference, viz., that, 
whereas the service of our neighbour is destined to end with 
time, divine contemplation, just as charity, shall continue for 
eternity, avails equally to prove the superiority of the purely 
contemplative life over the mixed. Yet recognising that un- 
interrupted attention to God is impossible to us in our present 
condition, so that even the " eagles " must sometimes descend 
from the skies, he holds that our highest estate is the mixed, 
which he compares to Jacob's Ladder whereon we ascend to 
God by contemplation and descend to the exercises of the active 
life. For, after all, he says, Mary and Martha, that is, the contem- 
plative and the active life, are sisters, and like good sisters should 
dwell together. But to ^-how us that the soul's attraction should 
be more and more towards contemplation, he adds the remark 
that it is well with the household where Martha is ever com- 
plaining of Mary, but things are not as they ought to be, when 
Mary has reason to complain of Martha, that is to say, when one 
allows his exterior occupations to encroach upon his spiritual 
exercises. From what has been said of the mixed and con- 
templative lives and their relative perfections, it will be seen 
that, however widely St. Bernard and St. Thomas may differ 
with regard to the speculative question of superiority, practically 
they are in accord — (Translator.) 



78 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

publicity, keeping aloof from the multitude, and pre- 
ferring her own ease to the care of themselves, raise 
their voices in protest against such conduct. " Act 
not so," they cry, " act not so. Better is the milk 
of thy breasts than the wine of such kisses. By means 
of that milk thou canst deliver us from * the carnal 
desires that war against the soul/ thou canst rescue us 
from the world and win us to God." Or perhaps, when 
they say, " Because thy breasts are better than wine," 
they intend to signify this : " Those spiritual delights 
distilled to us from thy breasts are far superior to the 
earthly pleasures wherewith, as With wine, We were 
formerly intoxicated and held captive." 

This comparison of bodily pleasures with wine is 
very apt. Just as the grape, when drained by pressure 
has no longer any juice to yield, so the* body in the 
wine-press of death is sterilised completely as a source 
of delight, and can never again wax wanton under the 
impulse of passion. Hence, the Prophet declares, 
" All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the 
flower of the field. The grass is withered and the 
flower is fallen. " And the Apostle, " He that soweth 
in the flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption." 
Also, " Meat for the stomach and the stomach 
for the meat, but God shall destroy both it 
and them." But consider, if perhaps this comparison 
may be extended not only to the flesh, but to the 
world as well. It also " passeth away, and the con- 
cupiscence thereof," and all things therein shall come 
to an end of which there is no end. But not so the 
spiritual breasts. These, when exhausted, shall be 
again replenished, from the fountain in the maternal 
heart, with the milk that can satisfy the sucklings' 



ON THE BREASTS OF THE SPOUSE 79 

thirst. Better, therefore, than the love of the flesh 
and the world are those breasts of the Spouse rightly 
said to be, which no number of little ones can ever 
drain, but which are always refilled to overflowing from 
the heart of charity. For rivers flow forth ceaselessly 
from that heart, and there is made within it a " fountain 
of living water springing up into eternal life." The 
crowning commendation of the Spouses' breasts is that 
which is said of the fragrance of their ointments. By 
this we are given to understand that they not only 
feed us with the sweetness of sound doctrine, but also 
exhale the pleasant odour of a good name. As to what 
these breasts are, what the milk that fills them, and 
what the ointments whereof they are redolent, all these 
questions I purpose to discuss more in detail in another 
sermon, with the help of Christ, Who, with the Father 
and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth one God, for 
ever and ever. Amen. 



SERMON X 
On the Spiritual Ointments. 

" Smelling sweet oj the best ointments." 

My brethren, I cannot pretend to such profundity 
of understanding or to such perspicacity of genius as 
would enable me to discover anything new for myself. 
But in the mouth of St. Paul, which is always open 
to us, I find a full and ever-flowing fountain. As very 
often on other occasions, so now also in explaining the 
breasts of the Spouse, I shall draw on its resources. 
" Rejoice with those who rejoice," says the great 
Apostle, " weep with those who weep." In these few 
words he expresses all the affections of a mother's 
heart . For little children know not how to be ill or well 
without their sickness or health being, through sym- 
pathy, shared in by her who brought them into the 
world. She cannot help being conformed in all things 
to her own flesh and blood. Wherefore, agreeably to 
the mind of St. Paul, I will take the two breasts 
of the Spouse to signify these two maternal affections, 
naming one Compassion and the other Congratulation 
or Sympathy with joy. For if the Spouse does not as 
yet possess such feelings, does not as yet exhibit these 
breasts, is not- as yet conscious of a readiness to 
" rejoice with those that rejoice " and to " weep with 
those that weep," she is still but " a little one " and im- 
mature. Should a soul so defective be appointed to 
the government of others, or to the office of preaching, 

she will do no good to her neighbour, but infinite evil 

8q 



ON THE SPIRITUAL OINTMENTS 81 

to herself. But how recklessly bold and lost to shame 
should one of this kind be to thrust herself uncalled 
into such functions ! 

But let us return to the breasts of the Spouse, and 
to each let us assign its own peculiar kind of milk. 
I say, then, that Congratulation yields the milk of 
encouragement, Compassion that of consolation. Both 
species the spiritual mother feels flowing abundantly 
into her loving heart from the heavenly source 
whenever she obtains the kiss of divine contemplation. 
You may see her immediately afterwards with full 
breasts giving suck to her children, distilling from 
the one breast a wealth of consolation, and from 
the other a plenteous stream of salutary exhortation, 
according as the various needs of the little ones may 
appear to demand. For example, should she notice 
that one of those whom she has begotten in Christ, 
is agitated by some violent temptation, and reduced 
thereby to such a state of perturbation, sadness, and 
pusillanimity as to be no longer capable of withstand- 
ing the enemy's onslaught, how she sympathises with 
him ! how she soothes him ! how she weeps over him ! 
how she consoles him ! how many arguments of piety 
does she not presently discover with which to lift him 
up out of his depression ! But if, on the contrary, she 
observes him to be full of zeal and alacrity, and 
making good progress towards perfection, oh, then she 
is jubilant ! she approaches him with salutary admoni- 
tions ; she fans his zeal to brighter flame ; she provides 
him as well as she can with the means of persever- 
ance ; she exhorts him to be ever striving towards higher 
sanctity. In this way does she accommodate herself 
to all. She transfers to herself the dispositions of all. 

2 V 



82 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

And she shows herself to be the mother ot the Weak 
no less than of the fervent. 

How many do we behold to-day actuated by feelings 
and dispositions very far from motherly ! — I speak of 
those who have undertaken the government of souls. 
Rather it must be confessed, although with groans of 
misery, that they melt down in the furnace of their 
avarice, and fashion into things of traffic, and barter 
away for filthy lucre the reproaches of Christ, the 
spittings, the scourges, the nails, the lance, His cross, 
and His death, — all. And the price of this all, the 
world's ransom, they hasten to place in their purses ! 
The only difference between prelates* of this character 
and the Iscariot is that, whereas he equated the 
value of all this merchandise with thirty (silver) pieces, 
they, on the contrary, influenced by a more griping 
greed of gain, endeavour to drive a better bargain by 
demanding an immeasurably higher price. After these 
profits they hunger with an insatiable appetite. When 
possessed, they are in fear lest they lose them, and they 
grieve for them when lost. In the love of them they 
rest, in so far, at least, as their anxiety to preserve 
and increase them is consistent with any rest. But 
for the loss or the salvation of souls, they have no con- 
cern. Most certainly, these are not true mothers, who, 
though they are " grown fat and thick and gross " out 

* The Saint is speaking of simoniac prelates, at that time 
very numerous in the Church, who knocked down ecclesiastical 
offices and privileges to the highest bidder, thus making mer- 
chandise of the fruits of Christ's Passion. The comparison with 
Judas recalls a similar made somewhere by Ruskin. " There 
are many Iscariots nowadays," says the great art critic, " but, 
alas ! very few of them get the grace of hanging themselves." — 
(Translator.) 



ON THE SPIRITUAL OINTMENTS 83 

of the patrimony of the Crucified, yet feel no com- 
passion for " the affliction of Joseph." The real 
mother makes herself known by her conduct. She has 
breasts and she keeps them full. She knows well how 
to " rejoice with those that rejoice and to weep with 
those that weep." Nor does she cease to extract the 
milk of exhortation from the breast of Congratula- 
tion, or the milk of consolation from the breast of 
Compassion. Concerning this milk and these breasts 
of the Spouse, I have now said enough. 

I shall next endeavour to explain what these ointments 
are of which the breasts smell so sweetly, but only on 
condition that you, my brethren, by your prayers, shall 
obtain for me the double grace of conceiving worthy senti- 
ments and of clothing them in suitable language, for the 
benefit of my hearers, that is, of yourselves. Of these 
ointments, some belong to the Bridegroom, others to 
the Bride, just as there are breasts also proper to each. 
I indicated, in the preceding discourse, the place where 
an exposition of the Bridegroom's ointments will be 
most properly given. Let us here consider those of 
the Bride, and that the more attentively on account of 
the high eulogium which Holy Scripture passes upon 
them, declaring them to be, not merely good, but the 
very best. And, first of all, I will set forth the various 
species of ointments, that out of all we may select those 
which most especially belong to the breasts of the Spouse. 
There is, then, the ointment of Contrition, there is the 
ointment of Devotion, and the ointment of Piety. The 
first is pungent, causing pain. The second is soothing, 
and tempers pain. The third is remedial, and banishes 
pain. I now proceed to discuss these separately. 
There is, therefore, an ointment which the soul, 



84 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

burthened with sins, makes up for herself. This she does 
when, beginning to consider her ways, she collects, heaps 
up, and crushes in the mortar of conscience the many 
and various species of her sins ; and in the crucible 
of a fervid heart, melts down and fuses all together, 
repentance and sorrow supplying the necessary heat. 
Hence she can now say with the Psalmist, " My heart 
grew hot within me, and in my meditation a fire shall 
flame out ." Behold, this is the first ointment wherewith 
the sinful soul ought to anoint the beginnings of her 
conversion and soothe her bleeding wounds. For the 
first " sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit." Hence 
as long as the poor and needy soul finds not wherewith 
to compound for herself a better and more precious 
ointment, let her not neglect to prepare this, even though 
it be from the vilest materials, because " a contrite and 
humble heart God will not despise." Besides, the 
more contemptible she appears in her own eyes, from 
the consideration of her past sins, the less so does she 
appear in the Eyes of God. And, after all, if that visible 
ointment, with which, as we read in the Gospel, the 
Lord's corporeal Feet were anointed by Magdalen, was 
but a figure of the invisible and spiritual kind of which 
there is question here, we certainly cannot consider 
this vile. For what is it we read of the former ? " The 
house," writes the Evangelist, " was filled with the 
perfume of the ointment." It was poured by the hand 
of a sinner, and poured on the lowest members of the 
sacred Body, that is, on the Feet. Yet it was not so 
mean and contemptible but that it could fill the whole 
house with the scent of its spices and the sweetness of 
its perfumes. My brethren, if we could but realise what a 
fragrance of delight is exhaled throughout the Church 



ON THE SPIRITUAL OINTMENTS 85 

by the conversion of a single sinner, and what an odour 
of life unto life the public and perfect penitent becomes, 
of him also we should proclaim with equal confidence 
that " the house was filled with the perfume of the oint- 
ment. " Nay, the perfume of penitence reaches even to 
the supernal mansions of the blessed above, so that as 
Truth Itself testifies, " There shall be joy amongst the 
angels of God over one sinner doing penance." Rejoice, 
therefore, ye penitents ! Be comforted, ye that are 
fearful ! I refer to you, who, recently converted from 
a worldly life and withdrawn from the ways of sin, 
have experienced the bitterness and confusion of a con- 
trite heart, with an exceeding pain and torment, as it 
were of recent wounds. Let your hands distil with con- 
fidence the bitterness of myrrh in this saving unction, 
because " a contrite and humble heart God will not 
despise." Certainly, we are not to despise or to consider 
as vile such an anointing, the odour of which is a source 
of edification to men, and of joy to the angels. 

But there is another ointment more precious than 
this in proportion as it is made from more excellent 
materials. We have not far to seek for the elements 
out of which we extract the ointment of Contrition. 
They are always within reach and found without diffi- 
culty. In the little gardens of our own consciences 
we can easily gather as much and as often as our 
necessities require. For, if we wish to be sincere, 
which of us has not always of his own enough of sins 
and iniquities ready to hand ? And, as you know, these 
are the stuffs whence we obtain the first ointment, 
described above. But this earth of ours can never 
produce the spices that yield the second. " From afar 
and from the uttermost coasts " must we seek them, 



86 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

" for every best gift and every perfect gift is from 
above, descending from the Father of lights." This 
ointment, in fact, is extracted from the divine benefits 
bestowed on the human race. Happy the man who 
gathers them carefully, and, with worthy thanks, tries 
to keep them constantly before the eyes of his soul ! 
When these sweet spices have been placed in the mortar 
of the breast, and crushed and pounded under the 
pestle of frequent meditation, and all fused together 
by the heat of holy desires, and finally mingled with 
the " oil of gladness," the result shall be, without any 
doubt, an ointment far more precious and excellent 
than the first. In proof of this, I need only quote the 
testimony of Him Who said, " The sacrifice of praise 
shall glorify Me." Now, this sacrifice will assuredly be 
offered by him who keeps in mind the benefits of God. 
Moreover, since Holy Scripture merely affirms of the 
first ointment that it is not despised, whereas the second 
is said to give glory, the latter is manifestly the more 
highly commended. Again, this is applied to the 
Head, whilst the other is poured upon the Feet. Now, 
as in Christ the Head must be referred to the Divinity, 
according to the words of St. Paul, " The Head of 
Christ is God," doubtless he, who gives thanks, anoints 
the Head, seeing that thanks are offered not to man but 
to God. Not that He, Who is God, has not become 
Man, since " God and Man are one Christ," but because 
all good gifts, even such as are communicated through 
man, have their ultimate source, not in man, but in 
God. As we know, " it is the Spirit that quickeneth, the 
flesh profiteth nothing." Therefore is it written "cursed 
be the man that trusteth in man." For although it is 
true that we place our whole hope in the Man-God, 



ON THE SPIRITUAL OINTMENTS 87 

nevertheless we do so not because He is Man, but 
because He is God. Therefore, the ointment of Con- 
trition is poured on the Feet, since the lowliness of a 
contrite heart accords well with the humility of Christ's 
Human Nature ; and that of Devotion is given to the 
Head, because honour belongs to Majesty. Behold, 
my brethren, what manner of ointment is this second 
I have proposed to you, with which, namely, that royal 
Head, Which makes the principalities tremble, does 
not disdain to be anointed, — nay even deems Itself 
honoured by the unction, according to the words, 
" The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me." 

Wherefore, it is not in the power of a poor and needy, 
that is, of a pusillanimous soul, to confect for herself 
this spiritual ointment. The spices or elements from 
which it is produced are only possessed by confidence, 
which is itself the offspring of liberty of spirit and purity 
of heart. For he that is diffident and weak in faith is 
restricted by the scantiness of his resources, and by 
reason of this poverty cannot spare time to devote 
himself to the praises of God, or to the consideration of 
the divine benefits which evokes these praises. And if 
ever such a one has the courage to endeavour to raise 
himself to this sublimity, domestic necessities and 
clamorous cares drag him down again directly, and he 
has perforce to confine himself once more within the 
narrow limits of his straitened circumstances. If 
you ask me the cause of such misery, I shall answer 
by pointing to what, if I do not mistake, you will 
recognise as existing, or, at least, as having existed in 
your own selves. This feebleness and diffidence of soul 
usually springs, as it seems to me, from one or other of 
two causes, namely, from newness of conversion, or, 



88 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

in the case of those who have been long in religion, 
from tepidity of life. Both the beginner and the luke- 
warm monk feel their souls oppressed, dejected, and 
disquieted, the former because of the sudden change 
of life involved in conversion, the latter because he 
perceives his old passions revived by his laxity, and the 
consequent necessity of devoting his energies again 
to the task of rooting out the briers and nettles that 
have sprung up anew in his interior garden, a work 
which will require his continual presence at home. 
For surely he who staggers under the burden of such 
penitential labours cannot at the same time delight 
himself in the praises of God. How can the mouth that 
is filled with groans and lamentations give forth with 
Isaias " thanksgiving and the voice of praise " ? We are 
told by the Wise Man that " Music in mourning is as 
a tale out of time.' , Besides, thanksgiving does not 
anticipate, but follows upon the bestowal of favours. 
Now, the soul that is in sadness, far from rejoicing in 
divine favours, is rather sorely in need of them. She 
has, therefore, more incentives to prayer than motives 
for thanksgiving. One cannot surely recall a benefit 
which one has not yet received. Rightly, then, have 
I said that the indigent soul is unable to produce for 
herself the second species of ointment, which can be 
extracted only from the recollection of heavenly favours. 
She cannot see the light so long as she contemplates 
the shadows. Plunged in bitterness, she occupies 
herself with melancholy memories of her sins, to the 
exclusion of every brighter thought. It is to such 
souls the Prophet addresses the words, "It is vain for 
you to rise before the light." As if he should say, 
" vainly do you attempt to rise to the contemplation of 



ON THE SPIRITUAL OINTMENTS 89 

those benefits which excite feelings of pleasure, before 
the remorse which disquiets you has been soothed by 
the light of consolation." The ointment of Devotion, 
therefore, is beyond the reach of the spiritually indigent. 
But consider who they are that can sincerely lay 
claim to an abundance of it. The two apostles "went 
from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they 
were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name 
of Jesus." Assuredly, they had anointed themselves 
well with the oil of the Spirit, whose sweetness* could 
be soured neither by words nor stripes. For they were 
rich in charity, which no expenditure can exhaust, and 
from it they were always able to offer " holocausts full 
of marrow." Their brimming hearts were constantly 
distilling this sacred unguent, with which they were 
then more abundantly supplied, when "they began to 
speak in divers tongues the wonderful works of God, 
according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak." 
Those also, no doubt, were richly provided with the same 
precious liquor, to whom the Apostle bears witness 
where he says, " I give thanks to my God always for 
you, for the grace of God that is given you in Christ 
Jesus, that in all things you are made rich in Him, in 
all utterance, and in all knowledge, as the testimony of 
Christ was confirmed in you, so that nothing is wanting 
to you in any grace." My brethren, would to God 
that I may be able to return similar thanks for you, 
as beholding you rich in virtue, full of fervour in the 
divine praises, and more plenteously abounding in all 
spiritual graces, through Christ Jesus, Our Lord. Amen . 

* Lenitas — smoothness. There seems to be an allusion here 
to the wrestlers' custom of lubricating their bodies so as to 
render their limbs more supple and flexible. — (Translator.) 



SERMON XI 

On the Mode and the Fruit of Redemption. 

" Smelling sweet oj the best ointments." 

I want to repeat, to-day, my brethren, what I said 
at the end of my last discourse, namely, that I wish 
to see you all participating in that heavenly unction, 
whereby tervent devotion recalls with joy and grati- 
tude the benefits bestowed by God. A very desirable 
grace is this, and for two reasons. Firstly, it lightens 
the labours of this present life, which become more 
supportable for us whilst our souls are exulting in the 
praises of God. And, secondly, because there is nothing 
on earth which so nearly approximates to the life of 
the blessed in heaven as a fervent choir singing to the 
glory of the Lord. So Holy Scripture says, " Blessed 
are they that dwell in Thy house, O Lord, for ever, 
and ever they shall praise Thee." It is, as I think, 
to this same ointment of Devotion in particular that 
the Psalmist refers when he sings, " Behold how good 
and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in 
unity ! like the precious ointment on the head." Such 
a commendation cannot, it seems to me, be applied to 
the ointment of Contrition. That, although it is indeed 
" good," can hardly be described as " pleasant," 
because the remembrance of past sin begets rather pain 
than pleasure. Besides, they who are engaged in pro- 
ducing that unguent do not " dwell together." Each 
for himself mourns and laments over his own trans- 
gressions. But when returning thanks, we direct all 

90 



ON THE MODE OF REDEMPTION 91 

our thoughts and attention to God alone, and for this 
reason we may be truly said to " dwell together." 
Thanksgiving is " good," as rendering to God the 
glory that is most justly due to Him. And it is 
also " pleasant," inasmuch as it is a source of delight. 
Wherefore, my brethren, I exhort you to withdraw 
your minds occasionally from the sad and disquieting 
memory of your sins, and to pass out of the confined 
limits of your consciences into the smoother ways of 
thoughts upon the benefits of God. Thus, after experi- 
encing confusion within yourselves, you will feel your 
courage revive at the view of the divine goodness. 
I wish you would resolve to put to the test of experi- 
ence that which the Prophet recommends to us in the 
words, " Delight in the Lord and He will give thee 
the requests of thy heart." True, sorrow for sin is 
a necessity, yet it should not be continuous. It must 
sometimes give place to the more cheering thoughts of the 
divine clemency, lest otherwise the heart, frozen hard 
by excessive sadness, should fall a victim to despair. 
Let us, then, mingle a little honey with our wormwood, 
in order that we may be able to swallow the bitters 
thus tempered with sweets, and so derive advantage 
to our spiiitual health. Listen to God Himself, how 
He moderates the bitterness of a contrite heart, how 
He recalls the pusillanimous from the abyss of despair, 
how with the honey of sweet and faithful promises He 
consoles the afflicted and raises up the dejected. By 
the mouth of His Prophet He says, " For My praise 
I will bridle thee, lest thou shouldst perish." That is 
to say, " lest at the view of thy sins, thou shouldst 
yield to excessive sadness, and, like a runaway horse, 
plunge headlong over the precipice to thy destruction, 



9 2 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

I will bridle thee, I will hold thee back to receive My 
pardon, I will lift thee up to sing My praises, and thou 
that art confounded at the memory of thy sins, shalt 
have thy courage reanimated by the experience of My 
bounty, discovering My mercy to be greater than thine 
own guiltiness." Had Cain been held in check with this 
bridle, never would he have cried out in despair, " My 
iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon." 
God forbid ! my brethren, God forbid ! The divine 
loving-kindness is greater than any iniquity whatever. 
Therefore " the just is his own accuser in the beginning 
of his words," * but only in the beginning, not through- 
out. Rather it is his custom to conclude his words 
with the praises of God. Take an example of a just 
man proceeding in this way. " I have thought on my 
ways," sings David, " and turned my feet unto Thy 
testimonies." For in his own ways he had endured 
pain and misery, but had found delight in the way of 
God's testimonies, "as in all riches." And do you, 
therefore, my brethren, after the example of the just 
man, " think of the Lord in goodness," whilst you think 
of yourselves in humility. So we read in Wisdom, 
' Think of the Lord in goodness, and seek Him in sim- 
plicity of heart." This lesson must be impressed upon 
your minds by a frequent, or rather by an uninter- 
rupted remembrance of the divine bounty. Otherwise 
how can that of the Apostle be fulfilled in you, " In 
all things giving thanks," if you allow the benefits, 
for which thanks should be rendered, to escape from 

* These words are not found in the Vulgate. In Proverbs 
xviii. 17, we read, "The just is first accuser of himself." But 
St. Bernard's reading concurs also with others of the Fathers, and 
exactly translates the Greek. Hence we may suppose that it 
is taken from an earlier version. — (Translator.) 



ON THE MODE OF REDEMPTION 93 

your memory ? I should not like to see you deserving 
the reproach formerly addressed to the Jews, of whom 
the Scripture testifies that they were unmindful of 
God's benefits and of the wonders He had worked in 
their behalf. 

But it is impossible, I will admit, for any man to 
recall and keep in mind all the benefits which our 
"compassionate and merciful Lord" ceases not to 
bestow upon mortals. " Who shall declare the powers 
of the Lord ? Who shall set forth all His praises ? " 
Yet, at least, that which is the chief and greatest, I 
mean the benefit of Redemption, ought surely never 
to depart from the memory of the redeemed. In this 
there are two things which I now wish to recommend, 
in a special way, to your consideration. I shall be as 
brief as possible, remembering what is said in Proverbs, 
" Give an occasion to a wise man, and wisdom shall 
be added to him." The two things of which I speak 
are the mode of our Redemption, and its fruit. The 
mode is God's emptying of Himself. The fruit is His 
filling of us from Himself. " Meditate on these things." 
The latter is the seed of holy hope ; the former an in- 
centive to the most ardent love. But both are neces- 
sary to our progress, lest our hope, unaccompanied by 
love, should become mercenary, or our love grow 
lukewarm if considered productive ot no fruit. 

Furthermore, the fruit which we expect from our 
love is that which has been promised by Him Who is 
the Object of our love, " good measure, and pressed 
down, and shaken together and running over, shall 
they give into your bosom." That measure, as I am 
told, will be without measure. But my desire is to 
know what that thing is which is to be measured to 



94 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

us according to the measure, or rather according to the 
immensity promised us. "The eye hath not seen, O 
God ! besides Thee what things Thou hast prepared for 
them that love Thee." Do Thou, Who hast made the 
preparation, vouchsafe Thyself to tell us what Thou hast 
prepared. It is our belief, it is our confident hope that, 
as Thou hast promised, so shall it be, and that " we 
shall be filled with the good things of Thy house. " 
But what are these " good things " and of what kind ? 
Perhaps " corn and oil and wine " ? Gold, and silver 
and precious stones ? But we can " conceive " what 
these are, and our eyes have " seen " them. We see them 
and feel only disdain and disgust for prizes so poor. 
What I seek is that which " eye hath not seen, nor 
ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of 
man to conceive." That is pleasant, that is sweet, 
that is delightful to inquire about, whatever it may 
be. " They shall be all taught of God," says St. John, 
" and God shall be all in all." I am informed, then, 
that the plenitude which we expect from God, is nothing 
less than a plenitude of God. 

But, my brethren, who can comprehend " how great 
is the multitude of sweetness " which is hidden in this 
short word, " and God shall be all in all " ! Not to 
speak ol the body, I discern in the soul three faculties, 
to wit, reason, will, and memory. And these, I say, 
are not so much powers of the soul, as the soul herself.* 

* This expression does not necessitate our admitting that 
the Mellifluous Doctor belonged to the school of philosophers 
(including Scotus and Ockham amongst medieval authors, and 
amongst modern scholastics Gutberlet, Jungmann and appa- 
rently Maher, cf. his Psychology, p. 36) who teach that the 
faculties of the soul are really identical with the soul. For there 
is a sense in which, consistently with a real distinction between 
them, the faculties can be said to be the soul. — (Translator.) 



ON THE MODE OF REDEMPTION 95 

How much is wanting to the integrity and perfection 
of each of the three in this present life is well known to 
every man that walks according to the spirit. Why 
should this be so, unless because of the fact that God is 
not yet " all in all " ? Hence it is that the reason is so 
very often deceived in its judgments, that the will is 
agitated by a fourfold perturbation,* that the memory 
is overclouded by a manifold oblivion. To these three 
kinds of " vanity " the noble " creature is made subject, 
not willingly, but in hope." For He " Who satisfieth " 
the soul's " desire with good things," will Himself be- 
come to the reason a Plenitude of Light, to the wall an 
Immensity of Peace, and to the memory an ever abiding 
Eternity. O Truth ! O Love ! O Eternity ! O Blessed 
and Beatifying Trinity ! After Thee this miserable 
trinity of mine (viz., the soul herself, as endowed 
with her three faculties) miserably yearns, because it can 

* What these perturbations are the holy Preacher does not 
pause to explain, because he takes it for granted that his hearers 
will understand. In the same way he refers to, without naming 
them, in his book On the Love of God, ch. viii. But in his second 
sermon for Lent, and in the fiftieth " De Diversis," he treats 
the subject explicitly. In the latter place, commenting on the 
text, " Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see King Solomon 
in the diadem wherewith His mother hath crowned Him," he 
writes : " He alone, viz., Christ, has been crowned by His 
mother, for He alone came forth from His mother's womb with 
His passions in order, as a Bridegroom coming forth from the 
bridal-chamber. These passions, as is well known, are four, 
namely, love, joy, fear, and sadness." This is, in fact, the tra- 
ditional classification of the passions, said to have originated 
with Zeno of Cittium (350-258 B.C.), founder of the Stoic philo- 
sophical school, who taught his disciples that the only road to 
peace and happiness was by the eradication of these four emo- 
tions {ndBr}), Cicero discusses them in the Tusculan Disputations ; 
St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, xiv. 9) shows, like St. Bernard, 
that not only are they not evil in themselves, but they can 
even be made most important auxiliaries of virtue. — (Translator.) 



96 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

nowhere find content so long as it remains an exile 
from Thee. By departing from Thee in what errors 
has it not involved itself ! in what sorrows ! in what 
terrors ! Woe, woe is me ! For what kind of trinity 
have I exchanged Thee, O Blessed and Divine Trinity ! 
" My heart is troubled, " and hence my sorrows. " My 
strength hath left me," and hence -my terrors. " And 
the light of my eyes itself is not with me," and hence 
my errors. Behold, O trinity of my soul, how different 
a trinity from the Divine thou hast fallen upon in thy 
exile ! 

Yet, "why art thou sad, O my soul, and why dost 
thou trouble me ? Hope in God, for I will still give 
praise to Him," that is, when errors shall have been 
banished from my reason, sorrows from my will, and 
terrors from my memory, and when, according to my 
hope, there shall succeed to them admirable tran- 
quillity, perfect sweetness, and eternal security. The 
first of these I shall find in God as He is Truth, the 
second in God as He is Love, the third in God as He 
is Almighty Power. Thus shall God be all in all, com- 
municating Himself to my reason as everlasting Light, 
to my will as imperturbable Peace, and to my memory 
as an unfailing, eternally flowing Fountain of Truth. 
I leave it to you, my brethren, to decide whether I 
should be right if I attributed the first grace to the 
Son, the second to the Holy Spirit, and the last to the 
Father. Yet this must not be understood in such a 
way as really to exclude either the Father, or the Son, 
or the Holy Ghost from any one of the three commu- 
nications. For we should be on our guard lest we 
admit in the Three Divine Persons any such distinc- 
tion as would detract from the plenitude of perfection 



ON THE MODE OF REDEMPTION 97 

common to All, or, on the other hand, any such pleni- 
tude of perfection as would be incompatible with the 
Personal Distinctions. At the same time, take notice 
that in the same way as the just derive tranquillity, 
sweetness, and security from the Divine Trinity, the 
earthly-minded experience a corresponding threefold 
influence from the trinity of evil, viz., the allurements 
of the flesh, the empty pageants of the world, and the 
pomps of the devil ; and it is by this noxious influence 
alone that the present life succeeds in deluding its 
wretched lovers. Hence, St. John tells us " all that is 
in the world is concupiscence of the flesh, and con- 
cupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life." So much 
for the fruit of Redemption. 

In the mode of Redemption, which, if you remember, 
I described as an emptying of Himself on the part of 
God, there are also three things to which I would par- 
ticularly invite your attention. For that emptying was 
not imperfect or partial. "He emptied Himself" even 
to the extent of taking flesh, of enduring death, even 
the death of the cross. Who can conceive the humility, 
the loving-kindness, the condescension manifested 
by the Lord of Majesty in assuming our nature, 
in bearing the pains of death, in submitting to the 
shame of crucifixion ? But it may be asked, " Could 
not the Creator have repaired the work of His hands 
without all this trouble ? " Most certainly He could. 
Yet He preferred to do so at such cost to Himself in 
order to take from man every shadow of excuse for 
that most detestable and hateful vice of ingratitude. 
If, then, He endured so much hardship it was with the 
view to make man His debtor for so much love, and 
that at least the difficulty of Redemption might remind 

l, G 



98 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

us of the obligation of thanksgiving, in whom creation, 
because of its easiness, had failed to awaken any feel- 
ing of devotion or gratitude. For how does this 
ungrateful human creature look upon the benefit of 
Creation ? "I have been created, indeed," he says, 
" without merit of my own, yet also without incon- 
venience or trouble on the part of my Maker. He 
simply spoke and I was made, in common with every- 
thing else. What great thing is it whatever thou be- 
stowest, when the gift costs thyself nothing more than 
a word ? " Thus, the impiety of man, depreciating 
the benefit of Creation, found an occasion for ingra- 
titude there precisely where it should have discovered 
only motives for love, and that " to make excuses for 
sins." But now " the mouth is stopped of them that 
speak wicked things." Now, O man, it is as clear as 
daylight what sacrifice of Himself the Creator made for 
thee. From Lord He became a servant ; from rich He 
became poor ; from the Word Divine He was made 
flesh ; and from the Son of God He did not disdain to 
become the Son of man. Remember, then, that, if 
created from nothing, thou hast not been redeemed for 
nothing. In six days God created all things, thyself 
included. But for the space of thirty-three whole years 
" He wrought salvation in the midst of the earth." 
Oh, what labours He endured ! Did He not, by the 
ignominy of His cross, add bitterness for Himself to 
the necessities of the flesh and the temptations of the 
enemy, and crown them all with the horror of His 
death? And indeed it was needful for us that He 
should do so.* Thus, O Lord ! thus " men and beasts 

* This seems to unsay what has been said above. But there 
is no real contradiction. In the preceding page the Saint, in 
opposition to the two other great lights of his time, St. Anselm 



ON THE MODE OF REDEMPTION 99 

Thou hast saved. Oh, how Thou hast multiplied Thy 
mercy, O God ! " 

" Meditate on these things," my brethren ; live in 
them. With their perfume refresh your hearts, long 
dried up within you by the pungent odours of your 
sins. So shall you abound in those unguents which are 
both sweet and salutary. Nevertheless, do not imagine 
you possess, as yet, the " best ointments," so highly 
commended in the breasts of the Spouse. But my 
limits will not permit that I should speak of these 
now. What I have said about the other two, keep 
fresh in your memory and prove its truth by the test 
of experience. And with respect to the third and most 
excellent ointment, assist me by your prayers that my 
discourse thereon may be worthy, both in matter and 
manner, of that delightful supplement to the attrac- 
tions of the Bride, and may animate your souls to the 
love of the Bridegroom, Who is Our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Amen. 



and Richard of St. Victor, denies that the Passion and Death 
of Christ was the only means at God's disposal for saving the 
human race ; here, in opposition to Abelard, he maintains the 
congruity or moral necessity of that manner of redemption. 
The whole subject is discussed with masterly skill in his 190th 
Epistle, addressed to Innocent II. — (Translator.) 



SERMON XII 
On the Ointment of Piety. 

" Smelling sweet of the best ointments." 

I have already explained to you, my brethren, two 
of the precious ointments which perfume the breasts 
of the Spouse, that of Contrition, which " covereth a 
multitude of sins/' and that of Devotion, which em- 
braces a multitude of benefits. Both are saluta^, 
although not both sweet. The first exhales a pungent 
odour, because the bitter remembrance of sin excites 
to compunction and sorrow. The second is more sooth- 
ing, since the contemplation of the divine goodness 
is a source of consolation and moderates grief. But 
there remains a third ointment, which far excels both 
of these. I have called this the unguent of Piety, 
because it is extracted from the necessities of the poor, 
the anxieties of the oppressed, the sorrows of the sad, 
the sins of the guilty, in a word, from all the miseries 
of all the miserable, even of those who are our enemies. 
These elements appear to be contemptible. Yet the 
ointment produced from them surpasses in value all 
aromatic spices. It is a healing ointment, since " Blessed 
are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." There- 
fore, the mateiials, from which are produced those 
" best ointments," worthy of the breasts of the Spouse, 
and sweet to the smell of her Beloved, are nothing else 
than many miseries collected together, and contem- 
plated with the eye of piety. Happy the soul that is 

IOO 



ON THE OIN1MENT OF PIETY 101 

careful to enrich and strengthen herself with a goodly 
store of such aromatic elements, moistening them with 
the oil of mercy and compounding them into an oint- 
ment by means of the fire of charity ! Who, think 
you, is the " acceptable man, that sheweth mercy and 
lendeth," that is easily moved to compassion, prompt 
to succour, " judging it more blessed to give than to 
receive," that is quick to forgive and slow to anger, 
never harbouring resentment, and in everything look- 
ing as much to his neighbour's necessities as to his 
own ? O whosoever thou art that art such, so saturated 
with the dew of mercy, so abounding in the bowels of 
piety, so making thyself all things to all, so become 
to thyself as " a broken vessel " in order to be ready 
always and everywhere to run to the help and relief 
of others, in short, so dead to thyself that thou mayst 
live to all beside — thou assuredly art the happy pos- 
sessor of this third and most precious ointment ! 
Thy hands have distilled this liquor containing all 
manner of sweetness ! It shall not be dried up in the 
evil time ; neither shall the heat of persecution exhaust 
it. But God shall be always " mindtul of all thy 
sacrifices and thy whole burnt- offering " shall "be 
made fat." 

There are men of spiritual wealth in the city of the 
Lord of virtues. I wish to know if any amongst them 
are possessed of this ointment. And here, as every- 
where else, the first name that occurs to me is the 
name of St. Paul, the " Vessel of election," truly a 
vessel of fragrant spices, a vessel of perfumes, a 
vessel filled with odoriferous substances of all kinds. 
He was, indeed, " the good odour of Christ unto God," 
in every place. Far and wide did that great heart of 



102 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

his, oppressed as it was by " solicitude for all the 
churches," scatter the fragrance of delicious sweetness. 
See what manner of spices and aromatic elements he 
gathered together for himself : "I die daily, I protest 
by your glory," he says. Again, " Who is weak and 
I am not weak ? Who is scandalised and I am not 
on fire ? " Vast stores of such precious material, ex- 
hibited in places known to you all, my brethren, did 
this wealthy man possess, to be used in confecting the 
" best ointments." For it was fitting that those breasts 
should be redolent of the purest and most excellent 
unguents ; those breasts, I say, which suckled the 
mystical members of Christ, to whom St. Paul was 
certainly a mother, being in travail once and a 
second time, until Christ had been formed in them, 
and the members brought into conformity with the 
Head. 

I will tell you also of another spiritually rich man, 
and how he kept a supply of select spices from which 
to produce these " best ointments." " The stranger," 
says holy Job, " did not stay without, my door was 
open to the traveller." And again, " I was an eye to 
the blind, and a foot to the lame. I was the father 
of the poor. I broke the jaws of the wicked man, and 
out of his teeth I took awaj' the prey. If I have denied 
to the poor what they desired, and have made the 
eyes of the widow wait ; if I have eaten my morsel 
alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof ; if I 
have despised him that was perishing for want of 
clothing, and the poor man that had no covering ; if 
his sides have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed 
with the fleece of my sheep." With what a sweet per- 
fume this man by his works must have filled the earth ! 



ON THE OINTMENT OF PIETY 103 



sJ 



His every act was an aromatic spice. He heaped up 
his soul with such odoriferous elements in order that 
the fragrant exhalations of internal sweetness might 
temper the stench of his rotting flesh. 

When Joseph had caused the whole of Egypt to run 
after him to the odour of his ointments, he also per- 
mitted their fragrance to reach even to those who had 
sold him into slavery. He did, indeed, use words of 
reproof, and he looked with an angry countenance. 
Yet the tears which burst forth from the softness of 
his heart were indicative, not of wrath, but of mercy. 
Samuel mourned for Saul who was seeking to kill him. 
His heart, melted within by the fire of that charity 
which warmed his breast, flowed out in tears of piety 
through the channels of his eyes. Regarding the 
pleasant odour of good fame which he scattered on 
every side, Holy Scripture bears this testimony : " And 
all Israel, from Dan to Bersabee, knew that Samuel 
was a faithful prophet of the Lord." What shall I 
say of Moses ? With what fatness and richness did 
not he also replenish his soul ! Not even that " ex- 
asperating house," in which he lived for a time, with 
all its murmuring, with all its madness, was able to 
rub off the oil wherewith his spirit had been anointed 
once and for all. Hence, amidst constant disputes and 
daily wranglings, he persevered unmoved in his meek- 
ness. Justly, therefore, does the inspired author testify 
of him that he " was exceeding meek above all men 
that dwelt upon earth," for even " with them that 
hated peace he was peaceful." So meek, in fact, was 
he, that not only did he not get angry with an un- 
grateful and rebellious people, but he even, by his 
intervention, appeased the anger of God enkindled 



io 4 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

against them. So it is written : " And He said He 
would destroy them, had not Moses, His chosen, stood 
before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest 
He should destroy them." Again, we read of him 
saying to God, " Either forgive them this trespass, or, 
if Thou do not, strike me out of the Book of Life which 
Thou hast written. " Behold a man truly anointed 
with the unction of mercy ! He speaks verily with the 
affection of a mother who can be contented with no 
happiness which her children do not share. Suppose, 
for instance, that a person of wealth said to a poor 
woman, " Come to my house and have dinner with 
me, but leave behind that infant which thou bearest 
in thy arms, lest it should begin to cry and cause us 
annoyance." Think you, my brethren, she would 
accept such an invitation ? Would she not rather 
choose to suffer hunger than, abandoning her beloved 
child, to dine alone with her rich benefactor ? So, 
neither would Moses be satisfied to " enter into the 
joy of his Lord," whilst the people remained without ; 
for, inconstant though they were and ungrateful, yet 
he clung to them as would a mother to the child of her 
womb, and with a truly maternal affection. His heart, 
which they bitterly grieved, was more willing to endure 
this suffering than to bear the sorrow of seeing them 
torn from it. 

Where shall we find a better model of meekness than 
David, who lamented the death of Saul, of the man, 
I say, who had always thirsted for his ? What greater 
charity than thus to mourn for one whose removal 
brought himself to the throne ? He was almost in- 
consolable at the loss of a parricidal son. What an 
abundance of the " best ointment " is revealed in such 



ON THE OINTMENT OF PIETY 105 

an affection ! No wonder, then, he could pray with 
confidence, saying, " O Lord, remember David and all 
his meekness." * Therefore, all these possessed those 
" best ointments," of which they are redolent even 
to-day throughout the universal Church. And not only 
they, but also eveiy one who in this life shows himself 
so benevolent and beneficent, who tries to converse with 
such kindness amongst men, that instead of keeping for 
himself the graces he receives, he devotes them all, 
without exception, to the common use, considering him- 
self, as St. Paul, a debtor alike to friends and enemies, 
"to the wise and the unwise." Because persons of 
this description are useful to all, and humble in all, 
therefore are they loved above all both by God and 
man, and the fragrance of their virtues " shall be in 
benediction." Those, I repeat, whose lives have been 
such, have perfumed with their precious ointments, 
not only the times in which they Jived, but even all 
subsequent ages. Thou also, my brother, if thou will- 
ingly sharest with us, thy companions, the gifts thou 
hast received from above ; if thou showest thyself 
everywhere amongst us obliging, affectionate, grateful, 
obedient, and humble: thou, also, shalt receive testi- 
mony of all that thou art redolent of the " best oint- 
ments." Yes, every individual amongst you, brethren, 
who not only supports with patience the corporal and 
spiritual infirmities of his brother, but, so far as he is 

* Ps. cxxxi. 1. Concerning the authorship of this psalm 
there is some uncertainty. Cardinal Bellarmin writes, " Either 
it was composed by Solomon after the building of the Temple 
when the ark of the Lord was brought into the place prepared 
for it ; or, at any rate, it was then sung by him, although David 
may have written it for that occasion, and given it to his son." — 
(Translator.) 



io6 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

permitted and has the power, assists him by kind 
offices, comforts him by his words, and directs him by 
his counsels, or, if the Rule will not allow of this, con- 
soles the weakling, at least by his fervent and incessant 
prayer — every such person, I say, exhales a good odour 
in his community, and " smells sweet ox the best oint- 
ments." As balsam in the mouth, so is such a reli- 
gious in a monastery. His brothers point him out and 
say of him, ■' This is a lover of his brethren and of the 
people of Israel. This is he that prayeth much for the 
people and for all the holy city." 

But let us now turn to the New Testament, and see 
if we can find there any reference to these " best oint- 
ments." We read in St. Mark that " Mary Magdalen, 
and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought 
sweet spices that coming they might anoint Jesus." 
What were those ointments, so precious that they were 
purchased and prepared especially for the Body of 
Christ, and so abundant that they were sufficient for 
the anointing of every part of It ! We nowhere find in 
the Gospel that any of the other two kinds of ointments 
were either procured or compounded for the special pur- 
pose of anointing the Lord, or that they were poured 
out over the whole of His Body. But a woman is sud- 
denly introduced, in one place kissing His Feet and 
dropping unguent upon Them ; in another, whether the 
same person or a different,* emptying out upon His 

* The question as to whether the sinful woman mentioned 
in Luke vii. 36-50, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and 
Mary Magdalen are one and the same, or two, or even three 
different persons has been keenly controverted from the earliest 
ages of the Church. Down to the beginning of the seventh 
century, the majority of writers seem to have distinguished 
between the three. But the authority of Pope St. Gregory (590- 






ON THE OINTMENT OF PIETY 107 

sacred Head an alabaster box of precious oil. Yet 
here it is said, " they bought sweet spices that coming 
they might anoint Jesus." They did not buy the 
ointment, but the sweet spices. The perfume for the 
holy Body was not obtained ready made ; it was freshly 
extracted by themselves from the aromatic elements. 
Neither was it applied to some particular part only, 
for instance, to the Head or the Feet. But, as it is 
written, "that coming they might anoint Jesus." 
What embraces the whole must not be restricted to 
a part. 

Do you, also, my brethren, put on the bowels of 
mercy ; show yourselves generous and kind, not alone 
to parents and relatives, not alone to those from whom 
you have received or hope to receive benefits, for even 

604) gave the opinion in favour of their identity a preponderance 
which it still retains. St. Bernard, although he here speaks 
doubtfully, has adopted the latter view in his third sermon on 
the Assumption and elsewhere. MacEvilly calls it "the more 
probable opinion, yet still warmly disputed." 

Another matter in dispute is the number of anointings. Is 
the anointing of the Saviour's Feet by the sinful woman, spoken 
of in Luke vii., the same as that mentioned in John xii. ? St. 
Bernard evidently thinks so, and hence identifies Mary, the 
sister of Martha, with the "woman who was a sinner." But 
it is now generally believed that, although performed by the 
same person, the anointings were really distinct. As a matter 
of fact, there is much more reason for identifying the anointing 
described in Mark xiv. with that of John xii., which, however, 
St. Bernard assumes to be different, if not by different persons. 
Both took place at Bethany, the native village of Mary, Martha, 
and Lazarus ; on both occasions the disciples complained of the 
waste ; and on both our Lord answered them in the same words. 
True, St. Mark tells us it was the Head that was anointed, whilst 
according to St. John it was the Feet. But these statements 
are easily reconciled by supposing both narratives to be but 
partial accounts of the same event, and supplementary of each 
other. — (Translator.) 



108 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the heathens do this, but, according to the counsel 
of the Apostle, study to do good to all, so that, for 
God's sake, you will not refuse or withhold, even in 
the case of an enemy, any service you can render to 
body or soul. So shall it be manifest that you too 
abound with the " best ointments," and have pur- 
posed to perfume, as far as depends on you, not merely 
the Lord's Head or Feet, but His entire mystical Body, 
which is the Church. Perhaps the reason why the Lord 
Jesus would not have the ointment which had been 
prepared for Him, to be poured upon His dead Body, 
was that it might be reserved for His living Body. 
For the Church is living and eats of " the living Bread 
That came down from heaven." It is the Body which 
Christ loves best, which He will not suffer to taste 
death, whereas His natural Body was delivered up to 
death, as every Christian knows. It is His mystical 
Body that He wants us to anoint and to cherish ; and 
He desires us to apply the more special and efficacious 
medicaments to its weak members. For this, therefore, 
He would keep the precious ointment, when, antici- 
pating the hour and hastening the glory of His Resur- 
rection, He thus enlightened rather than refused the 
devotion of the holy women. If He was unwilling to 
be anointed, it was as sparing the unction, not as 
spurning it. He did not decline the service, but post- 
poned it to a time when it would be a greater benefit. 
I am not now referring to any benefit from the material 
and corporal unction, but to the spiritual benefit sym- 
bolised by that. For this reason, therefore, He, the 
Master of piety, refused for Himself the best ointments 
of piety, because He wished they should be reserved 
for relieving the necessities, both corporal and spiritual, 



ON THE OINTMENT OF PIETY 109 

of His own indigent members. When, a little earlier, 
ointment was poured on His Head and even on His 
Feet, and precious ointment too, did He forbid it ? 
On the contrary, He reprimanded those that were pre- 
suming to do so. To Simon, who was angry that He 
should allow Himself to be touched by a sinner, He 
administered a reproof in the form of a lengthy parable. 
And when the disciples complained of the waste of 
ointment, He said to them, " Why are you troublesome 
to this woman ? " 

Sometimes (if I may here digress a little) when pros- 
trate and in tears at the Feet of my Jesus, offering Him, 
at the thought of my sins, the " sacrifice of an afflicted 
spirit," or when standing at His Head (a grace more 
rare with me) and exulting in the memory of His bene- 
fits, I also have heard people complain and ask, " To 
what purpose is this waste ? " They complained, 
I mean, that I was living for myself alone, when I 
might, as they supposed, be assisting many. " For 
this," they said, " could have been sold for much and 
given to the poor." But it would be an unprofitable 
traffic for me, if I gained the whole world and lost 
myself and my own soul. Hence, understanding such 
expressions of discontent to be the" dead flies," men- 
tioned in Scripture, which destroy the fragrance of the 
ointment, I remembered the words of God : " O My 
people ! they that bless thee, the same deceive thee." 
But let those who accuse me of taking my ease hear 
the Lord excusing me and answering for me. " Why," 
He asks, " are you troublesome to this woman ? " 
That is to say, " You look on the face, and, therefore, 
you judge according to the face. He is not a man, 
as you suppose, who is able to stretch forth his hand 



no ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

to hard things, but only a weak woman. Why would 
you lay a burden on him to which I see he is unequal ? 
He is doing ' a good work upon Me.' Let him con- 
tinue in this good, until he gets strength to do better. 
If ever he changes from a woman to a man, and to 
a perfect man, then he may also be employed in a 
manly and perfect work." 

My brethren, let us look upon bishops with honour, 
and upon their labours with fear. We should never aspire 
to the episcopal dignity, if we considered the toil it in- 
volves. Let us, then, acknowledge the inadequacy of 
our powers, and let us not imagine that the soft and 
feeble shoulders of women such as we are, can support 
with ease the burdens of strong men. It is our duty 
to honour these men, and not to scrutinise their con- 
duct with a critical eye. It would be intolerable that 
you should censure the work of those whose responsi- 
bilities you refuse to undertake,* just as it would be 
impertinence in a woman spinning at home to rebuke 
her warrior husband returning from battle. So, if a 
religious in his cloister should occasionally observe a 
secular cleric, who toils amongst the people, carrying 
himself with too much freedom or too little circum- 
spection, for instance, sinning by excess in eating, in 
speaking, in sleeping, in hilarity, in anger, or in censure, 
let him not at once hasten to condemn, but let him 
remember what is written, " Better is the iniquity of 
a man, than a woman doing a good turn." For the 
monk, indeed, does well in keeping a watchful guard 
over himse)t. But he who labours for the good of the 

* St. Bernard had already refused several episcopal and 
archiepiscopal sees, such as those of Rheims, Genoa, and Milan. 
— (Translator.) 



ON THE OINTMENT OF PIETY in 

people performs a more excellent and more manly 
work. And if this cannot be done without some degree 
of " iniquity," that is, without slight departures from 
strict regularity of life and conversation, we must 
bear in mind that " charity covereth a multitude of 
sins." So much with regard to those two temptations 
by which the devil incites religious persons either to 
ambition the dignity of bishops, or rashly to condemn 
them for their failings. 

But we must now return to the ointments of the 
Spouse. Do you not perceive how much the ointment 
of Piety is to be preferred to those of Contrition and 
Devotion, from the fact that it alone is not allowed to 
be wasted ? Indeed, so little is waste tolerated in the 
case of this " best ointment," that even the gift of a 
cup of cold water is not permitted to go unrequited. 
Precious, nevertheless, is the unguent of Contrition, 
which is extracted from the recollection of sin, and is 
poured upon the Lord's Feet, because " a contrite 
and humble heart God will not despise." Far more 
precious still is what I have named the ointment of 
Devotion, which is produced from the thought of the 
divine benefits, and is deemed worthy to be applied 
to the Saviour's Head. Hence God Himself says of 
it, " The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me." But, as I 
have just remarked, superior to both is the unction of 
Piety, which is confected out of a sympathetic regard 
for the miserable, and which spreads its fragrance over 
the whole Body of Christ. I speak not of that Body 
Which hung upon the Cross, but of that mystical Body 
which He acquired by His Passion. This third oint- 
ment is indeed so excellent, that in comparison with 
it God declares the others to be unworthy of His notice, 



H2 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

where He says, " I will have mercy and not sacrifice." 
In my judgment, therefore, the perfume of this virtue 
of mercy or piety is exhaled in a degree beyond all 
others from the breasts of the Spouse, who is doubtless 
anxious to conform herself in all things to the will of 
her Beloved. Did not Tabitha,* even in death, give 
forth the sweet fragrance of mercy ? And therefore 
it was that she so quickly revived, because the odour 
of life in her prevailed over death. 

Now, listen to an " abbreviated word," that is, a 
recapitulation of this subject. Whoever inebriates his 
neighbour with his words and perfumes him with his 
benefits, the same may consider as addressed to himself 
the eulogium, " For thy breasts are better than wine, 
smelling sweet of the best ointments." But who is 
sufficient for this ? Which of us can spend even a 
single hour so justly and perfectly as not sometimes to 
grow unfruitful in speech or remiss in action ? Yet 
there is one who can make such a boast with all truth 
and justice. I mean the Church, to which, in her uni- 
versality, the means are never lacking both for inebri- 
ating and for perfuming. For what she wants in one of 
her members she possesses in another, according to 
the measure of the gift of Christ and the distribution 
of the Holy Spirit, " dividing to everyone as He willeth." 
In those who make unto themselves " friends of the 
mammon of iniquity," the Church exhales an odour of 
sweetness. She inebriates in the persons of her preachers, 
who pour out the wine of spiritual joy over the whole 
earth, intoxicate the nations therewith, and " bring 
forth fruit in patience." Thus she may confidently 
and securely call herself the Spouse, inasmuch as she 

* Acts ix. 36-42. 



ON THE OINTMENT OF PIETY 113 

possesses the " breasts better than wine, smelling sweet 
of the best ointments." But although none of us, my 
brethren, will be so presumptuous as to dare to call 
his soul the spouse of Christ, nevertheless, as we are 
members of the Church which rightly glories in this 
title, and in the reality corresponding to the title, we 
at least may each justly claim a participation in that 
high prerogative. What we possess all collectively in a 
:omplete and perfect manner, without doubt we also 
possess individually by participation. Thanks to Thee, 
Lord Jesus, Who hast vouchsafed to number us amongst 
the members of Thy Church, not alone that we might 
be Thy faithful servants, but also that, as spouses of 
Thine, we might be united to Thee in the sweet and 
chaste and everlasting embrace of love, and admitted 
to contemplate the glory of Thy unveiled Countenance, 
which glory is common to Thee with the Father and the 
Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen. 



1. 



SERMON XIII 
Glory belongs to God alone. 

" Thy name is as oil poured out." 

As the ocean, my brethren, is the source of all rivers 
and fountains, so is our Lord Jesus Christ the Weil- 
Spring of all virtue and knowledge. For who but the 
"King of Glory" can be the "Lord of Virtues"? 
And, according to the Canticle of Anna, the same Lord 
is " the God of knowledge." Purity of body, diligent 
use of the affections (industria cordis), rectitude of 
will — all flow from this Divine Fountain. Yet not 
such graces only. Every intellectual endowment, 
every gift of eloquence, every pleasing disposition, 
must also be ascribed to the same Source. Thence is 
derived every word of wisdom and all knowledge, from 
Him, namely, " in Whom all the treasures of wisdom 
and knowledge are hidden." What, I ask, are chaste 
thoughts, just judgments, holy desires, but so many 
rivulets from that Divine Spring ? Now, if the currents 
of natural water are ceaselessly pouring themselves 
back again into the sea through secret and subterranean 
channels, in order to return once more to us with un- 
wearied service, for the satisfaction of our sight and 
supply of our necessities ; why should not the spiritual 
streams, also, revert to their Source without interrup- 
tion or diminution, so that they may revisit and 
irrigate anew the plains of our souls ? Therefore, let 

the rivers of grace flow back to the Fountain-Head, 

n 4 



GLORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE 115 

that they may again descend upon us. Let the heavenly 
tide re-seek its Origin that the earth may be watered 
with a more generous inundation. Do you ask how 
this is to be done ? The Apostle tells you when he says, 
" In all things giving thanks." Whatever wisdom, 
whatever virtue you believe yourselves to possess, attri- 
bute it all to Christ, Who is the Wisdom and the 
Knowledge of God. 

' But," you will say, " who would be so foolish as to 
presume to do otherwise ? " No one, indeed. Even the 
Pharisee gives thanks. Nevertheless, his thanksgiving 
" hath no praise from God." If I remember aright what 
is said in the Gospel, Irs expression of gratitude did not 
make him more pleasing. Why ? Because whatever 
devotion sounded from his lips, it was not sufficient to 
excuse the swelling of his heart in the eyes of Him Who 
" knoweth the high afar off." O Pharisee, remember 
that " God is not mocked." Thinkest thou that thou 
hast anything " which thou hast not received " ? 
" Nothing," thou confessest, " and therefore I give 
thanks to the Giver." But, if so, then it is in view of 
no antecedent merit on thy part that thou hast 
received those graces of which thou art boasting. 
Assuming that thou dost admit this also, it is conse- 
quently, in the first place, the height of senseless arro- 
gance in thee to despise the Publican, who for this 
reason alone has not so much as thou, because he has 
not gratuitously received so much. Secondly, consider 
well lest thou be not returning His gifts to God, whole 
and entire, but by fraudulently appropriating some- 
thing to thyself of His honour and glory, mayst justly 
lay thyself open to the charge of theft, and theft against 
God. Wert thou openly to attribute to thyself some 



n6 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

credit for those things whereof thou art boasting, as if 
they were not only in thee, but from thee, I should 
rather believe thee to be in error than to have the will 
to commit an act of injustice, and consequently I should 
attempt to correct thy mistake. Now, however, by 
returning thanks, thou dost show that thou art ascrib- 
ing nothing to thyself, but dost prudently acknowledge 
all thy merits to be the gifts of God. Hence, in con- 
temning others, thou betrayest thyself and showest 
thyself "to have spoken with a double heart," with 
one heart lending thy lips to a lie, and with the other 
usurping the glory of truth. For thou couldst not 
have judged the Publican to be worthy of contempt 
in comparison with thyself, without esteeming thyself 
to be worthy of honour in comparison with him. But 
what wilt thou reply to the Apostle, who prescribes 
and enjoins that "to God alone be honour and glory " ? 
How canst thou answer the angels who distinguished 
and explained what God is pleased to reserve to Him- 
self and what He condescends to share with mortals ? 
11 Glory to God in the highest," sang they, " and on 
earth peace to men of good will." You see, my breth- 
ren, how the Pharisee gives thanks, honouring God 
indeed, but only with his lips, whilst he honours himself 
by the sentiments of his heart. Thus you may hear 
words of thanks from the mouths of many, but more 
out of custom or convention than from affection or 
conviction ; so much so, that the most abandoned 
criminals are wont to give thanks to God for having 
succeeded well and prosperously, as they imagine, in 
the accomplishment of their perverse purposes. Listen, 
for instance, to the thief, when he has brought his 
wicked machinations to a successful issue, and possessed 



GLORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE 117 

himself at last of some long-coveted booty. In his 
heart he exults with joy and exclaims, " Thanks be to 
God ! I have not watched in vain ; I have not lost 
my nocturnal labour." Does not the murderer simi- 
larly rejoice and return thanks that he has prevailed 
over a rival or avenged himself on an enemy ? And 
the profligate, also, joyously gives praise to God for 
that he has at last attained the means of gratifying 
his evil passion. 

It follows, my brethren, that not all thanksgiving 
is acceptable with God, but only that which proceeds 
from a chaste, sincere, and simple heart. I say a 
"chaste heart," to exclude those who glory in their 
evil deeds and for them return thanks. As if God, 
like themselves, could take pleasure in their wicked 
doings, and could exult in their abominations ! He 
that is such a one shall hear addressed to him these 
words of reproach, " Thou thoughtest unjustly that I 
shall be like to thee, but I will reprove thee and set 
before thy face." I have said " from a sincere heart," 
on account of hypocrites, who appear indeed to attri- 
bute to God the merit of whatever good they possess, 
but glorify Him only with their lips, the heart with- 
holding what the tongue concedes. And because 
" in His sight they do deceitfully," their " iniquity is 
found unto hatred." The one class impiously attribute 
to God their own crimes ; the other fraudulently ascribe 
to themselves the gifts of God. So stupid, so ungodly, 
so brutish even is the former vice that there is no need 
for me to put you on your guard against it. The latter, 
however, is wont to beset the path of religious and 
spiritual persons, in particular. Of a surety, it is high 
virtue, and as rare as high, to be able to do great works 



xi8 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

without esteeming oneself great, and to conceal one's 
sanctity from oneself alone whilst manifesting it to 
all others. To my thinking, there is no virtue so 
admirable as that a man should appear wonderful in 
the eyes of others and contemptible in his own. Thou 
art truly a faithful servant, if thou sufferest not to cling 
to thine own hands any part of whatever glory may 
redound from thy works to thy Lord, which glory, 
although it does not proceed from thee, yet passes 
through thee. Then, according to the Prophet, thou 
wilt " cast away avarice by oppression, and shake thy 
hands free from all bribes." Then, as the Lord com- 
mands, thy light will " shine before men," unto the 
glory, not of thyself, but of thy " Father, Who is in 
heaven." And thou wilt be an imitator of St. Paul 
and of other faithful preachers who preach not them- 
selves, but Jesus Christ, just as thou seekest " not the 
things that are thine but the things which are of Jesus 
Christ." Wherefore, thou, also, shalt be greeted with 
the consoling words, " Well done, thou good and faith- 
ful servant ! because thou hast been faithful over a 
few things, I will place thee over many things." 

Joseph knew that his Egyptian master had entrusted 
to his care both his house and all his goods. But he 
also was well aware that there was one exception, 
namely, his mistress ; and so he would not consent to 
her solicitations. " Behold," he said to the temptress, 
" my master hath delivered all things to me, neither 
is there anything which is not given into my power, or 
that he hath not delivered to me, but thee who art his 
wife." For he was not ignorant that " the glory of the 
man is the woman," and he considered that he would 
be making a return of basest ingratitude should he 



GLORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE 119 

tarnish the glory of one who had rendered himself so 
glorious. Being wise with the wisdom of God, he 
reflected that husbands are extremely jealous of their 
wives, as of their own honour, and are never willing to 
entrust them to the care of any other than themselves. 
Hence, he would not presume to stretch forth his hand 
to what was not permitted him. What then? Shall 
men be so sensitively jealous of their own glory, and 
shall they yet dare to defraud God of His, as if He were 
not also jealous ? But hear what He Himself says, " I 
will not give My glory to another." What, then, O 
Lord, what wilt Thou give us ? " Peace," He answers, 
" I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." It 
is enough for me. Thankfully do I receive what Thou, 
O Lord, lea vest to me, and I leave to Thee what Thou 
reservest to Thyself. This division is pleasing to me. 
It is also, I doubt not, for my best interests. Glory I 
renounce altogether, lest, perchance, whilst I usurp 
what is not conceded, I justly forfeit even that which 
has been bestowed. Peace I want, peace I desire, 
and nothing more. He that is not satisfied with peace, 
is not satisfied with Thee. For Thou art " our Peace 
Who hath made both one." This is necessary for me, 
this is sufficient for me, to be reconciled to Thee and 
to be reconciled to myself. For since "Thou hast 
made me opposite to Thee, I am become burdensome 
to myself." I will be cautious henceforth neither to 
appear ungrateful for the gift of peace bestowed, nor 
a sacrilegious usurper of Thy divine glory. To Thee, 
O Lord, to Thee, let Thy glory remain inviolate. As 
for me, I shall be well content, if I can but preserve 
that peace which Thou hast given me. 

When peace was restored to Israel by the overthrow of 



120 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Goliath, the people all participated in the joy, but David 
alone was glorified. Josue, Jephte, Gedeon, Samson, even 
Judith, though a woman, all in their day gloriously 
triumphed over their enemies. But, whereas the whole 
nation joyfully participated in the peace which they 
won, none was associated with them in glory. Judas 
Machabeus, also, distinguished himself by his numerous 
victories. Yet , when, by fighting bravely, he repeatedly 
brought peace to his exulting people, did he ever share 
his glory with anyone ? " And then," we read, " there 
was great— not glory but — joy amongst the people." 
Wherein has the Creator of all fallen short of these, 
that He also should not enjoy a singular, incommuni- 
cable glory ? Alone He created all things, alone He 
triumphed over His enemies, alone He redeemed the 
captives, and shall He be otherwise than alone in His 
gloiy ? " And My own arm," He says, " hath saved 
for Me." Again, " I have trodden the wine-press alone, 
and of the gentiles there is not a man with Me." 
What share, then, can I have in the victory, since I 
have had none in the combat ? It is, therefore, the 
height of impudence in me to arrogate to myself either 
glory without victory, or victory without a fight. But, 
ye mountains, " receive peace for the people," receive 
for yourselves * also peace, not glory : this you must 
reserve to Him Who alone has both sustained the 
conflict and achieved the victory. So, I pray, so let 
it be. " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth 
peace to men of good will." But he is evidently not a 
man of good, but of evil will, who, not content with 
peace, " with a haughty eye and an insatiable heart," 

* " Pacem suscipite vobis." Some readings have, " Pacem 
suscipite nobis" — "receive peace for us." — (Translator.) 



GLORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE 121 

is impatiently covetous of the glory of God, and so 
loses peace without compensating for its loss by the 
acquisition of glory. Who would believe the wall 
should it boast of having begotten the sunbeam which 
it receives through the window ? Who would credit the 
clouds did they claim the rain as their offspring ? To 
me it is clear enough that, although imperceptible to 
bodily sense, there must be some source other than the 
aqueducts for the currents of water, some other source 
for the words of wisdom besides the lips and teeth. 

Whatever I behold in persons of sanctity, deserving of 
commendation or admiration, on examining it by the 
clear light of truth, I discover that there is One Who 
is really praiseworthy and wonderful, and another who 
appears so ; and I " praise God in His saints," whether 
in Eliseus or in the great Elias, both resuscitators of 
the dead. They indeed exhibit to our view things 
strange and marvellous, yet not by their own power, 
but as ministers of Another. It is God, dwelling in 
them, " Who doth the works." Invisible and inacces- 
sible in Himself, He is manifest and " wonderful in His 
saints." He is alone wonderful " Who alone doth won- 
derful things." The beautiful writing or drawing is 
no merit of the pen's, neither can the tongue nor the lips 
glory in the good word that proceeds from them. But 
it is time that a prophet also should speak. " Shall 
the axe boast itself," asks Isaias, " against him that 
cutteth with it ? or shall the saw exalt itself against 
him by whom it is drawn ? As if a rod should lift 
itself up against him that lifteth it up, and a staff exalt 
itself which is but wood, so against the Lord is every- 
one that glorieth, if he glory not in the Lord." " If 
I must glory," St. Paul teaches me whereof I must 



122 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

glory and wherein. " This," he says, " is our glory, 
the testimony of our conscience." Securely shall I 
glory if, conscience being my witness, I arrogate to 
myself none of the Creator's glory. Securely indeed, 
because thus I shall glory not against, but in the Lord. 
Such glorying is not only not forbidden us, but it is 
even strongly commended in the words, " You receive 
glory one from another, and the glory which is from 
God alone you do not seek." And truly the grace to 
glory in God alone can come from God alone. Nor 
is this an insignificant glory, being as true as it is from 
Truth, and so rare, in truth, that only the small number 
of the perfect perfectly glory in it. Therefore, let the 
" vain sons of men," " let the lying sons of men " go 
and " by vanity deceive together." As for him who 
wisely glories, he will prove his work and examine it 
diligently by the light of truth. So shall he have glory 
in himself, not in the mouth of another. I should be a 
fool to lock up my glory in the coffer of men's lips so 
that I should have to beg it of them whenever I wanted 
it. For as it depends on their will whether to approve 
or to censure me, so my glory or disgrace would be 
equally in their power. But I keep my glory under 
my own care. I myself with more fidelity shall guard 
it for myself. Nay, not even to myself do I entrust it. 
I rather deposit it with Him, Who " is able to keep 
that which I have committed unto Him against that 
dajV careful to preserve, faithful to restore. " Then 
shall every man have (secure) praise from God," every 
man, that is, who has despised human praise. For 
changed to confusion shall be the glory of those who 
relish only the things of earth, according to the testi- 
mony of David, " God hath scattered the bones of them 



GLORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE 123 

that please men : they have been confounded because 
God hath despised them." 

My brethren, knowing this, none of you should 
desire to be praised in this life, for you steal from God 
whatever of glory you appropriate to yourselves, 
without referring it to Him. What title, O filthy dust, 
what title canst thou pretend to glory ? Is it sanctity 
of life ? " But it is the Spirit That sanctifieth," not 
surely thine, but the Spirit of God. And even wert 
thou renowned for signs and wonders, still it is by the 
divine power these are wrought, although by thy 
agency. Or, perhaps, thou groundest thy claim on 
thy possession of popular favour, because, perhaps, 
thou utterest the " good word," and, perhaps, to some 
advantage? But it is Christ Who has given thee " a 
mouth and wisdom." For thy tongue — what is it but 
" the pen of a scrivener " ? And such as it is, thou but 
holdest it on loan. It is a talent entrusted to thee 
and shall be demanded back with interest. If thou 
be found zealous in the discharge of duty, and faithful 
in handing over the profits, thou shalt receive the 
reward of thy labours. Otherwise, thy talent shall be 
taken from thee, and, nevertheless, the interest still 
exacted, and thou shalt be accounted " a wicked 
and slothful servant." Consequently, my brethren, 
let all the glory arising from the gifts of the manifold 
grace appearing in you, be referred to Him Who is 
the Author and Giver of all things praiseworthy. But 
let this be done not merely with the lips, as by hypo- 
crites, nor solely from custom, as by worldlings, nor 
yet out of necessity, as beasts are compelled to carry 
their burdens, but as becomes saints, with trustful 
simplicity, with fervent devotion, with a happy, yet 



124 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

modest and reserved cheerfulness. Accordingly, whilst 
offering up " the sacrifice of praise," and " paying our 
vows" from day to day, let us be careful with all 
vigilance to unite attention with usage, affection with 
attention, joy with affection, reverence with joy, 
humility with reverence, and with humility liberty of 
spirit. So shall we sometimes find ourselves moving 
forward towards the goal with the easy steps of a puri- 
fied mind, making excursions out of ourselves through 
the extraordinary intensity of our affections and 
spiritual raptures, experienced in transports of joy, in 
the light of God, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost ; and 
thus shall we prove ourselves to be included in the 
number of those whom the Prophet David addressed 
when he said, " They shall walk, O Lord, in the light 
of Thy Countenance, and in Thy name they shall rejoice 
all the day, and in Thy justice they shall be exalted." 
Perchance it may here be said to me, " Thou dost 
well to admonish us, yet thy words should not be irre- 
levant to thy theme." But have patience a little. 
I have not lost sight of my subject. Have I not taken 
upon myself to expound the text, "Thy name is as 
oil poured out " ? This is the task I have set myself, 
this the work I have undertaken.* And it is for you to 
judge whether my remarks have been altogether beside 
the purpose or not. For my part, I will try to show you 
in a few words that I have not wandered far from my 
way. Do you not recollect that the last thing com- 
mended in connexion with the breasts of the Spouse 
was the delicious odour of their ointments? What, 
then, more seasonable than to remind the Spouse that 

* " Hoc opus, hie labor est." Evidently a reminiscence of the 
Virgilian " Hie opus, hie labor est "— JSn. VI. 129.— (Translator.) 



GLORY BELONGS TO GOD ALONE 125 

she owes this fragrance to the bounty of her Beloved, 
lest she should be tempted to ascribe it to herself ? 
And this, as you can see, has been the drift of all my 
apparently wandering remarks. " The sweet odour 
and the delights of my breasts," we may fancy the 
Spouse saying, " I attribute neither to my own efforts 
nor merits, but to Thy munificence, O my Beloved ; all 
is due to the perfume of Thy name which is as oil poured 
out upon me." Thus is apparent the connexion of my 
present text with that of my last discourse, as also the 
relevancy of what I have been saying. 

But the full exposition of this text, whence I took 

occasion to speak at such great length on the most 

detestable vice of ingratitude, must be reserved for 

another time and another sermon. For the present let 

it suffice to have reminded you that, if even the Spouse 

dares not appropriate to herself anything whatever 

of her virtues and graces, how much less should we 

presume to do so, who are but the " handmaidens " ? 

Let us, therefore, my brethren, let us also exclaim, 

following the example of the Spouse, " Not to us, O 

Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory." And let 

us say this, not merely in words and with our tongues, 

' but in deed and in truth." Otherwise, of us, too, it 

shall be said, what I fear exceedingly, " And they 

loved Him with their mouth, and with their tongue they 

lied unto Him. But their heart was not right with 

Him, nor were they counted faithful in His covenant." 

Let us, then, cry aloud, but as well in the depths of 

our hearts as with the lips of our mouths, let us ciy, 

I repeat, " Save us, O Lord, our God, and gather us 

from among the nations, that we may give thanks to 

Thy holy name — not to our own names — and may glory 

— not in our but — in Thy praise," for evermore. Amen. 



SERMON XIV 
The Church and the Synagogue. 

" Thy name is as oil poured out.*' 

" In Judaea God is known : His name is great in 
Israel." " The (Gentile) people that walked in dark- 
ness have seen a great Light." That is, they saw the 
Light which shone in Judaea and in Israel, and they 
desired to " draw near and to be illuminated," so that 
they who " in times past were not a people might now 
be a people of God," and that for the future, " their 
place might be in peace," the one Corner-Stone uniting 
in Itself the two walls approaching from different 
directions. They derived confidence from the words of 
invitation which had alread}' been spoken by the Holy 
Ghost through the Psalmist, " Rejoice, ye nations, 
with His people." Therefore, they wished to draw 
near ; but the Synagogue forbade it, declaring that 
the Church of the Gentiles was unclean and unworthy, 
reproaching it with the filth of idolatry and with the 
blindness of ignorance. " On what merit dost thou 
presume ? " asks the Jew ; " Touch me not ! " " But 
why ? " replies the Gentile. " Is He the God of the 
Jews only ? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles ? 
And if I am wanting in merit, He is not wanting in 
compassion. Is justice His only attribute ? Nay, He is 
also merciful. O Lord, 4 let Thy tender mercies come 
unto me and I shall live.' ' Many, O Lord, are Thy 

mercies ! Quicken me according to Thy judgment/ 

126 



THE CHURCH AND THE SYNAGOGUE 127 

which is tempered with mercy." What will He do, 
the just and merciful Lord, whilst the Jew thus glories 
in the Law, applauds his own justice, disclaims any 
need of mercy, and despises such as confess this need ; 
and the Gentile, on the contrary, acknowledging his 
sin, avows his unworthiness, deprecates justice, and 
appeals to mercy ? What, I ask, will He do, the Judge , 
and such a Judge, in Whom judgment and compassion 
are both so inherent that the one is as inseparable from 
Him as the other ? What can be more natural and 
reasonable for Him to do than to give to each of them 
that which he prayed for — judgment to the Jew and 
mercy to the Gentile? The Jew asks for judgment, 
well, then, let him have it. But let the Gentile, ac- 
cording to his prayer, glorify the mercy of God. And 
the judgment granted to the Jew is this, that he who 
contemns the compassionate justice of God, and wishes 
to establish his own — which, in truth, rather accuses 
than justifies — shall be abandoned to the oppression, 
not to the justification, of his own righteousness. 

This Jewish justice comes from the Law, which has 
never conducted anyone to perfection. It is a yoke 
which neither the Jews " nor their fathers have ever been 
able to bear." But the Synagogue is strong. She has 
no liking for burdens that are light or for yokes that 
are sweet. The Jew is well, and has no need of the 
Physician, no need of the unction of the Spirit. " He 
trusted in " the Law : "let it now deliver him," if it 
can. But the Law which was given him has not the 
power to vivify. It rather kills, according to the 
Apostle, who says, " the letter killeth." The same is 
implied in the words of Christ, "Therefore I say 
unto you, you shall die in your sins." This, then, O 



128 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Synagogue, is the judgment thou hast challenged on 
thy error. Blinded shalt thou be left, blinded and per- 
tinacious, " until the fulness of the Gentiles — whom 
thou dost arrogantly contemn and enviously repel — 
shall come in," and shall acknowledge the " God Who 
is known in Judaea " and the name that is " great in 
Israel." It was lor this judgment Jesus " came 
into this world, that they who see not may see, and 
that they who see may become blind. " Yet 
this " blindness hath happened in Israel in part " 
only, "for the Lord will not cast off His people" 
entirely. He will " reserve unto Himself as a 
seed " the apostles and the " multitude of believers 
who had but one heart and one soul." Neither 
" will He cast them off for ever," but will " save a 
remnant." Once more will He " receive Israel, His 
servant," and He will be " mindful of His mercy." So 
that not even in regard to them, in whom she now finds 
no room for herself, shall mercy desert her companion, 
justice. Did God treat the Jew as he deserved, assuredly 
there would be "judgment without mercy to him who 
doth not mercy." For Judaea, possessing much of the oil 
of the knowledge of God, like a miser, keeps it shut 
up in the vase. I, the Gentile, beg for some, and she 
neither " hath mercy nor lendeth." She alone must 
have worship, she alone must have knowledge, she 
alone must know " His great name." Nor is this desire 
for monopoly due to any zeal for her own glory, but 
rather to jealousy of me. 

Therefore, do Thou, O Lord, " judge my judgment," 
and let Thy great name be magnified still more, and 
let the oil, which is already plentiful, be more abund- 
antly multiplied. Let it increase, let it brim over, let 






THE CHURCH AND THE SYNAGOGUE 129 

it be poured abroad, let it overflow to the Gentiles, and 
let "all flesh" experience "the salvation of God." 
How can it be, as the ungrateful Jew would have it, 
that all the saving unction should remain in " the 
beard of Aaron" ? It belongs not to the beard, but to 
the Head. And the Head is head, not only of the beard, 
but of the whole body as well. Let the beard receive 
the descending ointment first by all means, but not 
solely. Let it transmit to the inferior members what 
it derives from the Head. Let the heavenly oil descend , 
let it descend even to the breasts of the Church, which, 
with a hungry eagerness, does not disdain to squeeze it 
from the beard, until, saturated with the dew of grace, 
she joyously exclaims, to prove herself not ungrateful, 
" Thy name is as oil poured out." But let it, I pray, 
descend even lower, let it trickle down as far as " the 
skirt of his garment," that is, even unto me, who, 
though the lowest and the most unworthy of all, still am 
of " the garment." For even I, as " a little one in 
Christ," demand for myself, on the title of piety, a 
share of that oil from the breasts of mother Church, 
And should any man murmur, whose " eye is evil 
because the Lord is good," do Thou, O Lord, answer 
for me. " Let my judgment come forth from Thy 
Countenance," and not from Israel's haughty lips. 
Rather I should say, " answer for Thyself," and say 
to Thy calumniator — for he calumniates Thee because 
Thou dost benefit one so undeserving — say to him, 
therefore, " I will also give to this last even as to thee." 
The Pharisee is displeased. Yet why should he grumble ? 
My title is the Judge's good will. Surely there can be 
no juster standard of merit, as certainly there can 
be no more generous measure of reward. "Or is it 



130 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

not lawful for Him to do what He willeth," in regard 
to that which is His own ? It is a mercy to me, but 
no wrong to thee. " Take what is thine, and go thy 
way." If it is His good pleasure to save even me, what 
dost thou lose thereby ? 

Magnify thy merits as much as thou pleasest, and 
make much of thy labours. But " the mercy of the 
Lord is better than lives." I confess, I have not " borne 
£}ie burden of the day and the heat." I am oaly bear- 
}®&* according to the will of the Father of the family, 
f 31aif$weet yoke " and a " light burden." I have been 
fttoWOjfcscarcely an nour * or > ^ longer, I have not felt 
jftoftfpftgfy/ excess of love. Let the Jew prove his own 
,stflen|#]| M ; A§ for me, I prefer to " prove what is the 
gpo^j, $.n$tja# acceptable, and the perfect will of God." 
itfpmifc 'iGinflfJcfr^od all that has been lost to me in 
w^)p& a#$ fcimfl. nTJie Jew relies on the articles of a 
fey^aj^agjje^m^jfj^fijthe good pleasure of the Divine 
WiBfio'oliMigve a^idjit/S^all not be reputed unto folly 
%P,Vmiq fer $be?e.>#j"&fe/tj$ His good will." It will 
rflQenffi^fljme tfee^t^gr^ will restore to me the 
in^er&ai^Lhav^fl^ a more plentiful 

gP^fcf/Kidfl wjll r ft4f5d1o5ne jfe,9 a participation in the 
if&ifcty® {£q\Tgh\s $$$ jthe^d^elo^ music, and the 
§W_e#t ^ip^p&f &&<$ottm higi^ea&gi&fif. God's exulting 
f^ifer, if m^'d^^i Uv&wf ^^mjo^ J ew > be 
w^Jm^wifr^m^^ rathko^f^fute^ " with 

WMmd^mt^Al^foe&ia^ifi^A vf^me in 
hfefSfer*^jS Ap^9eJie,isjjaft s^q^ifti^/apsw^^.jiis 

te&f §-fm™ ( : jte^K»% io# t %n4 x js %i^4^ ri ^u.j4p^sfti 

SFoegf^e fea^trputs^e <mth>slw Atift^^fam 1 ^ 



THE CHURCH AND THE SYNAGOGUE 131 

who are well pleased to see her in her folly voraciously 
gorging herself with the kid of sin, and, in a manner, 
concealing and stowing it away in the stomach of her 
ignorance and stupidity. Meantime, despising the 
justice of God and anxious to establish her own, she 
proclaims that she has no sin, nor any need that the 
Fatted Calf, that is, Christ, should be slain for her 
sake ; since, as she fancies, she has been cleansed and 
justified by the works of the Law. But now when the 
veil of the " letter that killeth " has been rent by the 
death of the crucified Word, the Church, under the 
impulse of the Spirit of liberty, rushes boldly into 
the sanctuary, into the holy of holies, obtains recog- 
nition from the Bridegroom, finds favour in His eyes, 
is given the place of her rival, becomes a Spouse, and 
supplants the Synagogue in the affection and embraces 
of the Beloved. Then, in fervour of spirit, clinging 
and closely united to Christ the Lord, Who distils and 
pours all over her " the oil of His gladness," in a measure 
greater than is given to " her fellows," she exclaims, 
" Thy name is as oil poured out." What wonder if 
she is anointed who clasps the " Anointed of the Lord " ? 
The Church, then, reposes inside, but as yet only 
the Church of the perfect. However, even for us there 
is hope. Therefore, " rejoicing in hope," let us, who are 
still imperfect, keep watch before the doors. Let none 
as yet lodge within, save the Bridegroom and His Bride, 
that they may enjoy their secret and mutual embraces, 
undisturbed by any clamour of carnal passions, by any 
tumult of sensible images. But let the throng of " young 
damsels" who cannot yet be free from such interior 
perturbations, abide without. Let them keep an eye 
on the door. Let them watch in confidence, knowing 



i 3 2 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

that to themselves is addressed what they read, " After 
her shall virgins be brought to the King, her neighbours 
shall be brought to Thee." And that each may know 
" of what spirit he is," by virgins I mean those souls 
which, betrothed to Christ before they could be denied 
by contact with the world, have persevered in fidelity 
to Him Whose spouses they became all the more hap- 
pily the more early. The " neighbours " or " damsels " 
are they who were once " conformed to this world," who 
abandoned themselves to "the princes of this world," 
viz., to the foul demons, unto every kind of uncleanness, 
but who now, ashamed of the past, and putting on the 
likeness of the new man, are striving, with only the 
more diligence because so late, to purify themselves 
from the stains of their former sinfulness. Let both 
virgins and damsels go forward. Let them yield neither 
to faintness nor to fatigue, although they do not yet 
experience in themselves that feeling which would cause 
them also to exclaim with the Spouse, " Thy name is 
as oil poured out." For such young persons have not 
the courage to speak directly to the Bridegroom. Yet if 
they are only faithful in following the footsteps of their 
mistress, the Bride, they shall be permitted to enjoy at 
least the odour of the oil, and thus shall be stimulated 
to desire and to solicit still more precious favours. 

I am not ashamed, my brethren, to acknowledge that 
I myself very often, and particularly in the beginning 
of my conversion, used to seek with a hard and frozen 
heart Him Whom my soul wished to love. For I could 
not yet love Him Who as yet had not been found. Or, 
at any rate, I could not love Him as much as I desired ; 
and for this reason I sought Him, in order to love Him 
more, Whom certainly I should not have sought at all 



THE CHURCH AND THE SYNAGOGUE 133 

unless I already loved Him in some degree. Whilst, 
then, I sought Him in Whom my cold and languid 
spirit might find warmth and repose, nowhere did I 
meet anyone who could help me by dissolving the 
stiffening frost which held my interior faculties in bond- 
age, and by restoring the pleasant spring of spiritual 
joy. Thus my soul grew daily more languid, and weary, 
and inert. Filled with disgust, I became sad almost 
to despair, and muttered within myself, " Who shall 
stand before the face of His cold ? " Until on a sudden, 
perhaps at the word, perhaps at the sight of some 
spiritual and perfect man, occasionally even at the 
thought of one dead or absent, " the winds blew and 
the waters ran," and " my tears were my bread day 
and night/' What is this but the odour exhaling from 
the unguent wherewith such a one was anointed ? It 
could not be the ointment itself, inasmuch as it reached 
me only through a human medium. Hence, whilst re- 
joicing in the favour, I felt at the same time confounded 
and humiliated, because it was only a slight breath of 
the perfume, and not a bountiful unction that was 
vouchsafed me. My sense of smell was gratified, but 
not my sense of touch. I therefore knew that I was too 
unworthy for God to manifest His sweetness to me 
immediately. And if the same thing should happen 
again, I would indeed eagerly accept the favour be- 
stowed and feel duly grateful. But grieving I should 
grieve that I had not deserved to receive it from God 
directly and, as the saying is, from hand to hand, 
though this I earnestly implored. I feel ashamed to 
be more affected at the thought of a man than at the 
thought of God. And then I cry out with tears, " When 
shall I come and appear before the face of God f" I 
suppose some of yourselves have had the same experi- 



134 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

ence, and have it sometimes still. Herein what are we 
to understand except that either our pride is being 
humbled, or our humility protected, or fraternal charity 
fostered, or holy desires enkindled ? One and the same 
thing is medicine for the sick and food for the con- 
valescent ; it gives strength to the weak and pleasure 
to the strong. One and the same food cures our dis- 
tempers and preserves our health. It nourishes the 
body whilst pleasing the palate. 

We must now go back to the words of the Spouse. 
But let us so hasten to hear what she says that we 
may also endeavour to understand her wisdom. This 
Spouse, as I have remarked already, is the Church. 
She it is to whom " much hath been forgiven because 
she loveth much." The reproaches addressed to her 
by her rival, even these she has turned to her advan- 
tage. Thus she has become more docile under correc- 
tion, more patient in labour, more ardent in love, more 
prudent in self-restraint, more humble for the con- 
sciousness of her failings, more acceptable for her 
modesty, more prompt in obedience, more devout and 
fervent in returning thanks. And whilst the Syna- 
gogue, as has been said, murmurs and talks of her 
merits, and her labours, and " the burden of the day 
and the heat," the Church is only mindful of the divine 
munificence, saying, " His name is as oil poured out." 

This surely '■' is the testimony of Israel to praise the 
name of the Lord." Not, indeed, of Israel " according 
to the flesh," but of Israel "according to the spirit. " 
For how could the carnal Israel speak in that way ? 
Not that he lacks oil, but he has not his " oil poured 
out." Oil he has, but he keeps it concealed ; he keeps 
it in his law-books rather than in his heart. He clings 
to the rind of the letter. He holds in his clutch a full 



THE CHURCH AND THE SYNAGOGUE 135 

vase. But it is sealed and he refuses to open it, even 
to anoint himself. O Israel, the spiritual unction is 
within, it is in the interior. Open and anoint thyself, 
and be no longer " a provoking house." Where is the 
use of having oil in thy vessels unless thou f eelest it also 
on thy members ? What avails it to read and re-read 
the sweet name of the Saviour in thy books if the 
sweetness of His love and service has no place in thy 
life ? His name is oil. Only pour it out and thou shalt 
experience its virtue, which is threefold. But since the 
Jew despises my appeal, do you, my brethren, -attend. 
I want to tell you what I have not yet explained, viz., 
why the name of the Beloved is compared to oil. There 
are, as far as I can see, three reasons. And forasmuch 
as He is called by many names, because none that is 
adequate can be found (He being ineffable) we have 
first to invoke the Holy Spirit that He would deign to 
reveal to us that one name out of the many, which He 
wishes to be understood in this place ; for it has not 
been His good pleasure to consign it to writing. But 
this must await another discourse. For even if I had 
now the necessary knowledge, and neither you were 
burdened nor I fatigued, the lateness of the hour would 
still compel me to finish. Hold fast what I have to-day 
invited your attention to, so that to-morrow there may 
be no necessity to repeat. This is my purpose, this the 
task I am undertaking, namely, to show you why the 
Beloved's name is compared to oil, and which one of 
His names. And seeing that I cannot say anything of 
myself, I exhort you to pray that " a mouth and 
wisdom " may be given me, through His Spirit, by the 
Bridegroom, Jesus Chiist, Our Lord, to Whom be honour 
and glory for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XV 
On the Names of God, and the Name of Jesus. 

" Thy name is as oil poured out" 

" The Spirit of wisdom is benevolent." He is not 
accustomed to make Himself difficult of access to 
those who invoke Him. Often even before we call 
upon Him, He says, " Behold, I am here." Listen, 
then, to the inspirations which, at your prayer and 
for your sakes, He has been pleased to favour me 
with, concerning those questions postponed from 
yesterday until the present ; and reap the seasonable 
fruits of your own intercession. Behold, I am going 
to tell you the name which is rightly compared to oil, 
and to explain for what reason. We find many names 
of the Bridegroom scattered through the inspired pages. 
I will reduce them all to two. You will discover none, 
as I think, which does not signify either the riches of 
His mercy, or the power of His majesty. So speaks 
the Holy Ghost through one of His most familiar 
organs, that is, through David, " These two things 
have I heard, that power belongeth to God and mercy 
to Thee, O Lord." We find it written with regard to 
His majesty, " Holy and terrible is His name," and with 
respect to His mercy, " There is no other name under 
heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved." 
Further testimonies will confirm what I say. " And 
this," says Jeremias, " is the name that they shall 
call Him, the Lord, our Just One " — which is a name of 

136 



ON THE NAMES OF GOD 137 

power or majesty. According to Isaias, " His name 
shall be called Emmanuel " — a name of mercy. Again 
Christ says of Himself, " You call me Master and Lord." 
The former is a name of mercy, the latter of majesty. 
I say Master is a name of mercy, for it is as much an 
exercise of mercy to impart knowledge to the mind as 
to supply food to the body. Again Isaias tells us, 
" His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God 
the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince 
of Peace." Of these titles the first, third, and fourth 
are expressive of majesty, the others of mercy. Which 
then, is the name " as oil poured out " ? Evidently, 
the name of majesty and power is transfused in a 
manner into that of mercy and grace, and the result, 
which is, so to speak, an amalgam of all, abundantly 
poured out in Jesus Christ Our Saviour. Is not the 
name " God," for instance, merged and transfused into 
that of " God-with-us," that is, into " Emmanuel " ? 
So is " Admirable " into " Counsellor." So is " God 
the Mighty" into the titles " Father of the world to 
come," and " Prince of Peace." So is " The Lord our 
Just One " into " Compassionate and merciful Lord." 
In this I am speaking of nothing new. In olden times 
[the names Abram and Sarai were similarly merged and 
transfused into Abraham and Sara, respectively ; and 
so we recognise that even then the mystery of this 
salutary effusion was celebrated and foreshadowed. 

Where now is that awful " I am the Lord ! I am 
the Lord!" which, spoken with a voice of thunder, 
used to resound with equal terror and frequency in the 
ears of the ancients ? I have a prayer, dictated to me 
by Christ, the beginning of which, sweetened with the 
name of Father, guarantees a favourable hearing for 



138 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the petitions which follow. Servants are called friends. 
And it is not to disciples, but to His " brethren " the 
Saviour's Resurrection is announced. No wonder that, 
" when the fulness of time was come," a pouring out 
of the holy name took place, God fulfilling what He 
promised by the mouth of Joel, and pouring out of His 
Spirit upon all flesh. No wonder, I say, since I read 
of something similar having occurred even amongst the 
Hebrews of old. I suppose your thoughts anticipate 
my words, and that you already guess what I am about 
to say. What, I ask, was the meaning of the name 
" I am Who am," and " He Who is hath sent me to 
you," first given in answer to the question of Moses ? 
It is doubtful if even Moses himself could have under- 
stood that name had it not been poured out. But it 
was fused and poured and so comprehended. And not 
only poured, but even poured out, for already it had 
been poured in or infused * ; already it was possessed 
by the inhabitants of heaven ; already it had become 
familiar to the angels. But now it was dispersed abroad. 
It had been communicated by infusion to the celestial 
spirits in such a manner that they held it as an intimate 
possession. It was now poured out even upon men, 
so that, if the hateful wilfulness of an ungrateful people 
did not hinder it, the thankful cry, " Thy name is as 

* " Sed fusum est et captum, nee modo fusum sed et effusum 
quia jam infusum." The play upon words here is absolutely 
untranslatable. The holy Preacher appears to consider the 
great name of God as a solid substance, that requires to be 
fused or melted down before it can be contained in the small 
and frail vessel of created intelligence. After fusion, viz., in a 
manner suited to a finite capacity, it was poured in or infused 
into the angelic mind, whence later, at the Burning Bush, it 
was poured out to Moses, and through him to the human race. — 
(Translator.) 



ON THE NAMES OF GOD I3 Q 

oil poured out," would have gone up to God from the 
universal earth. For he says Himself, " I am the God 
of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." 
Run, ye nations ! Salvation is at hand. That name 
has been poured out, which whosoever shall invoke 
shall be saved. The God of angels calls Himself the 
God of men, also ! He hath poured oil upon Jacob, and 
caused it to fall upon Israel. Say to your brothers, 
" Give us of your oil." Should they refuse, then pray 
the Lord of the oil Himself to pour it out upon you. 
Say to Him, " O Lord, ' Take away our reproach.' Do 
not, we implore Thee, permit the malevolent one, viz., 
Satan, to insult Thy beloved one, whom Thou hast 
been pleased to call to Thee from the ends of the earth, 
by a condescension proportionate to her unworthiness. 
Is it fitting, I ask, that a wicked servant should exclude 
those whom the gracious Father of the family hath 
invited ? ' I am,' Thou sayest, ' the God of Abraham, 
and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' But is 
it of these only? Pour out, oh, pour out Thy name 
still wider ! Still more generously ' open Thy hand and 
fill every animal with blessing.' Let them ' come from 
the east and the west, and sit down with Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.' 'Let 
them come, let them come, the tribes, the tribes of 
the Lord ; the testimony of Israel to praise the name 
of the Lord.' Let them come, and sit down, and feast, 
and be filled with gladness. Let but this one song re- 
echo everywhere, ' Thy name is as oil poured out,' ' with 
the voice of joy and praise, the noise of one feasting.' " 
One thing, my brethren, I feel sure of, namely, that, if 
Philip and Andrew be the porters, we shall never meet 
with a repulse when we go begging for oil, when we 



140 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

want to see Jesus. As of old, Philip will immediately 
speak to Andrew, and both Philip and Andrew will 
speak to Jesus. But what will Jesus answer ? Doubt- 
less the same which He spoke once before, " Unless the 
grain of wheat, falling into the ground, dieth, itself 
remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much 
fruit." Therefore, let the Divine Grain die that the 
crop of the gentiles may spring up. For " thus it 
behoveth Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the 
dead, and that penance and remission of sins should be 
preached in His name," not alone in Judaea, but 
throughout all nations ; so that from the one name of 
Christ, countless millions of believers should be called 
Christians, and should exclaim in chorus, " Thy name 
is as oil poured out." 

In this, that is, in the name of Christ, I recognise the 
name which we read of in the Prophet Isaias, " He 
shall call His servants by another name, in which he, 
that is blest upon the earth, shall be blessed in God, 
amen." O name of benediction ! O oil everywhere 
poured out ! Do you ask how widely it has been poured 
out ? From heaven it overflowed to Judaea, and from 
Judaea through the world at large, so that from the 
whole earth the Church sends up the wondering cry, 
" Thy name is as oil poured out." " Poured out " 
in truth, since not only has it overrun heaven and earth 
but even the dwellers beneath the earth have been 
sprinkled therewith, " that in the name of Jesus every 
knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth 
and under the earth and that every tongue should 
confess " and should say, " Thy name is as oil poured 
out." Behold the name of Christ ! Behold the name 
of Jesus! Both were infused into the angels. Both 



ON THE NAMES OF GOD 141 

were effused upon men, upon those men, who like 
beasts, " had rotted in their filth," and they, these holy 
names, " saved men and beasts, as God hath multiplied 
His mercy." How precious this name, this oil ! Yet 
how cheap, too. How cheap, and yet how salutary! 
Were it not cheap, it would not be poured out for one 
like me. Were it not salutary, it could not have saved 
me. I participate in the name ; I participate also in 
the inheritance. I am a Christian ; I am, therefore, 
the brother of Christ. If I am really what I am called, 
I am " the heir of God and a co-heir with Christ ." And 
what wonder is it that the name of the Bridegroom is 
thus poured out, since He has poured out even Himself ? 
For, "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a ser- 
vant." And the Psalmist says, speaking in His name, 
" I am poured out as water." The fulness of the 
Divinity, whilst dwelling corporally on earth, was 
poured out, so that all of us, who live in the flesh, 
might receive of that fulness, and, recreated with 
its life-giving odour, might exclaim, " Thy name 
is as oil poured out." You now understand what 
name has been poured out, and how, and to what 
extent. 

But wherefore is it compared to oil ? This I have 
not yet explained. I was beginning to do so in the 
preceding discourse, when something suddenly occurred 
to me which I thought necessary to premise. The 
digression has been more lengthy than I anticipated, 
for no other reason, as I think, than because Wisdom, 
" the valiant woman, hath put out her hand " to the 
distaff, " and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle." 
Well she knew how to draw out into a long thread my 
scanty stock of wool or flax, and to stretch it to the 



142 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

breadth of the loom, so that " all her domestics might be 
clothed with double garments." There is, doubtless, 
a striking analogy between oil and the name of the 
Beloved, nor is the comparison made by the Holy 
Spirit quite an arbitrary one. Unless you can suggest 
something better, I will say that the name of Jesus 
bears resemblance to oil in the threefold use to which 
the latter lends itself, namely, for lighting, for food, and 
for healing. It feeds the flame, it nourishes the flesh, 
it soothes pain. It is light, and food, and medicine. 
Consider now how the same properties belong to the 
Bridegroom's name. When preached, it gives light ; 
when meditated, it nourishes ; when invoked, it soothes 
and softens. But let us examine each point in detail. 
Whence, think you, that great light of faith, and as 
sudden as great, throughout the whole world, except 
from the preaching of the name of Jesus ? Was it not 
by the refulgence of this name that God called us " into 
His marvellous light," to whom thus illuminated, and 
contemplating the Light by this light, St. Paul truly 
says, " You were heretofore darkness, but now light 
in the Lord " ? This is the name which the same 
Apostle was charged to " carry before the gentiles, and 
kings, and the children of Israel." He bore this name 
about as a lamp. With it he illuminated his native land, 
crying out everywhere, " The night is passed, and the 
day is at hand. Let us, therefore, cast off the works 
of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us 
walk honestly as in the day." And he directed the gaze 
of all to the Candle * on the Candlestick, by everywhere 

* " Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, 
but upon a candlestick that it may shine to all that are in the 
house " (Matt. v. 15). St. Bernard appears to be the only writer 
who has applied these words to the Crucified, " the Light of the 



ON THE NAMES OF GOD 143 

preaching " Jesus and Him crucified." Oh, with what 
splendour this light shone forth and dazzled the eyes 
of all beholders, when, flashing like the lightmng flame 
from Peter's mouth, it strengthened the corporeal 
" feet and soles " of one person physically lame, and 
enlightened the eyes of many others, who were spiri- 
tually blind I Surely it glittered with fiery scintilla- 
tions when the same Peter pronounced the words 
" In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and 

walk." , .... T . . 

But the name of Jesus is not merely light. tt is 
food as well. Do you not, my brethren, experience an 
increase of strength as often as you recall it ? What 
can so enrich the soul that reflects upon it ? What 
can so reinvigorate the weary mind, fortify the virtues, 
engender good and honourable dispositions, foster holy 
affections ? Dry is every kind of spiritual food, which 
this oil does not moisten. Insipid, whatever this salt 
does not season. If thou write*, thy composition has 
no charms for me, unless I read there the name of Jesus. 
Ifthoudisputestorconversest, I find no pleasure in thy 
words, unless I hear there the name of Jesus. Jesus 
is honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, jubilation 

in the heart.* 

Yet not alone is that name light and food. It is 
also medicine. Is any amongst you sad ? Let the 
name of Jesus enter his heart ; let it leap thence to 

World." Yet surely the application is as obvious as it is beau- 
tifu . It is in the same sense that St Augustme speaks o the 
Cross as the Master's chair, "Cathedra Chnst: But the 
metaphor of the candle and candlestick seems to be much 
more felicitous.— (Translator.) . 

-Jesus mel in ore, in aure melos in corde jub nns. Com 
pare with stanza 22 of the beautiful hymn, "JnbUns Rythm.cus 



I 44 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

his mouth; and lo ! the light that radiates from that 
name shall scatter every cloud and restore tranquilly 
Has some one perpetrated a crime, and, moreover' 
abandomng hope, is rushing in desperation towards <<Ihe 
snare of death; ? Let him but invoke this vhk £j 
name, and stra.ghtway he shall experience a renewal of 
courage, and a revival of confidence. What hardnes 
of heart common as it is with some, what torpidity o 
sloth, what rancour of spirit, what weariness ofSus 
has ever been able to resist the potent influence of fh 
all-saving name ? What exhausted fountain of devo 
tional tears has not, at the invocation of the name of 
Jesus, sent forth a fuller and a sweeter flood ? Who ever 
when trembling with terror in the presence oTdanger' 
has not .mmediately felt his spirits revive and his firs' 
departs as soon as he called upon this name of powTr i 
Who ever, agdated and buffeted by the billows of 
doubt, has not perceived his mind to be suddenlv 
dlummated with the clear light of certitude, the mome* 
he invoked this illustrious name ? Who eve^Tver 
whelmed by misfortune, and already on the point f 
succumbing has not been strengthened in m^by an 
■nfus.on of forftude when he pronounced this helpful 
de Nomine Jesu," used by the Church for the Feast of the Ho.y 



" Jesu decus angelicum, 
In aure dulce canticum, 
In ore mel mirificum, 
In corde nectar coelicum.' 



Even apart from the testimony of a constant tradition «. 
close resemblance in lan^o,-^ ^ «* ^uu&canx tradition, the 

this sermrlnd the « S ™? ^^ betwee * P art * of 

doubting thametwn hi < "* US Very Iittle roon * *» 

» nig L adi tne two have come from the same anthnr ev 



ON THE NAMES OF GOD 145 

name ? For this name is the sovereign remedy for all 
those various maladies and languors of the soul. By 
using it thus we may test the truth of the promise, 
" Call upon me in the day of trouble ; I will deliver thee 
and thou shalt glorify Me." There is nothing so effica- 
cious as the name of Jesus for restraining the violence 
of anger, depressing the swellings of pride, healing the 
smarting wound of envy, curbing the passions of the 
flesh, extinguishing the fire of concupiscence, temper- 
ing the thirst of avarice, and banishing every unlawful 
desire. For when I name the name Jesus, I call to mind 
a Man Who is "meek and humble of Heart/' Who is kind, 
sober, chaste, and merciful, and perfect in all goodness 
and sanctity, and Who is, at the same time, the great 
Almighty God, Who restores me to health by His 
example, and strengthens me by His help. All this 
sounds in my ear whenever I hear the name of Jesus. 
I find models for my imitation in His Humanity, and 
assistance to copy them in His Omnipotence. The 
examples of His mortal life I use as medicinal herbs 
which I prepare with the assistance of His divine power, 
and so make for myself an efficacious restorative such 
as no human physician can compound. 

Such an electuary, O my soul, thou canst find stored 
up in the little vessel of the name Jesus. So salutary 
is it, that it shall never prove ineffectual against any 
spiritual ailment whatsoever. Keep it always in thy 
bosom, keep it ever in thy hand, so that every thought 
and act of thine may be directed to Jesus. He Himself 
invites thee to this in the words, " Put Me as a seal upon 
thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm. ,, But of this later. 
Now I merely indicate where thou canst discover a 
medicine for thy arm and a medicine for thy heart. 

L K 



146 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Thou hast, I say, in the name of Jesus, the means of 
correcting thy evil actions and of making perfect such 
as are deficient in goodness. Therein, also, shalt thou 
find the means of preserving thy affections incor- 
rupt, or of purifying them from defilement already 
contracted. 

Amongst the children of Judaea there have been 
several others called Jesus, and she glories in the empty 
name. For, as belonging to these, that name is empty, 
since it yields neither light, nor food, nor medicine. 
Therefore does the Synagogue abide in darkness, even 
till now, oppressed with hunger and infirmity. And 
so must she remain without healing or satiety, until 
she shall acknowledge that it is this my Jesus " Who 
ruleth Jacob and all the ends of the earth," and until 
her sons " shall return at evening, and shall suffer 
hunger like dogs, and shall go round about the city." 
Those other Jews who bore the name of Jesus were sent 
on before, as of old the staff preceded the Prophet 
Eliseus to the corpse of the child of the Sunamitess. 
Hence, in their case, the name was nothing more than a 
shadow, for it was not interpreted by their lives. The 
staff was laid on the body, but produced neither life 
nor feeling, because it was only a staff. Then He came 
down Who had sent the staff, and immediately saved 
His people from their sins, thus deserving that it 
should be said of Him, " Who is this that also forgiveth 
sins ? " For He is the Same Who said, " I am the 
salvation of the people." Now there is life, now there 
is feeling. So it is manifest that this Jesus of ours does 
not bear an empty name as did His types. There is a 
feeling of health infused, and the favour is not con- 
cealed in silence. Within is the awakening of life, 



ON THE NAMES OF GOD 147 

without the voice of acknowledgment. I feel contrition, 
I confess my sins, and confession is evidence of life in 
me, since " Confession * perish eth from the dead as 
nothing." Behold life and feeling ! I am completely 
resuscitated, my resurrection is perfect. What is 
the death of the body but the privation of life and 
feeling ? Sin, which is the death of the soul, had left 
me neither the feeling of compunction nor the voice 
of confession, and hence I was dead. Then came He 
Who forgives sins, restoring both life and feeling, and 
saying to my soul, " I am thy salvation." What 
wonder that death should yield place where Life enters ? 
Now " with the heart we believe unto justice, and 
with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." 
Already the " child gapes," and he " gapes seven times," 
and he says, " Seven times a day I have given praise 
to Thee," O Lord. Mark well this number seven, for 
it is a sacred number, and here is not without its signi- 
ficance. But it is better to postpone this to another 
day when, not fastidious, but with keen appetites, 
we shall take our places at a good table, at the invita- 
tion of the Bridegroom of the Church, Our Lord Jesus 
Christ, Who is over all things, God, blessed for ever. 
Amen. 

* " A mortuo tamquam qui non est periit confessio." It is 
clear from the context that " confessio " in this place, as often 
elsewhere in Scripture, means, not confession of sin, but ac- 
knowledgment of favour, hence praise. The Saint is, therefore, 
not so much interpreting, as adapting the verse to his purpose. 
— (Translator.) 



SERMON XVI 
On the Mystical Sense of the Number Seven. 

" Thy name is as oil poured out." 

What, my brethren, is the mystical significance of the 
number seven occurring in the account of the resusci- 
tation * of the child by Eliseus ? I do not believe that 
any of you is so simple as to suppose it to be without 
some special design and due, as it were, to chance, that 
the gaping was sevenfold. Nor do I consider that it 
was without meaning that the Prophet, lying upon 
the corpse, contracted himself to the dimensions of 
the child's body, " and put his mouth upon his mouth, 
and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his 
hands." It is the Holy Ghost Who caused all these 
things to be so done and recorded, for the enlighten- 
ment, no doubt, of those human spirits of ours, which 
are led astray by the treacherous companionship of a 
corruptible body, and instructed in folly by the foolish 
wisdom of this world. " For the corruptible body," so 
we read in Wisdom, " is a load upon the soul, and the 
earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth 
upon many things." Consequently, no one ought to be 
surprised or impatient if I appear to examine curiously 
these storehouses of the Holy Spirit, so to call such 

* " And he (Eliseus) went up and lay upon the child ; and he 
put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his 
hands upon his hands ; and he bowed himself upon him . . . 
and the child gaped seven times and opened his eyes " (4 Kings 

iv. 34. 35). 

148 



ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 149 

mysterious narratives, since I know that " man's life 
is such, and the life of my spirit in such things as 
these." Yet I want to tell those who are gifted with 
a quick intelligence, and who are longing for the end 
of every sermon almost before they have heard the 
beginning, that I am a debtor to the dull, also, and 
indeed to them especially. My purpose is not so much 
to comment on words as to move and enkindle hearts. * 
I have to draw the spiritual water from the well and to 
give it to you to drink, which cannot be done by gliding 
quickly through my subject, but by careful discussion 
and frequent exhortation. However, the inquiry into 
the mystical meanings of my present text has detained 
us longer than even I had anticipated. I was under the 
impression, I confess, that one discourse would suffice 
for this, that we could pass quickly through this dark 
and pathless forest of allegories, and perhaps in one 
day's journey reach the open plain of moral instruc- 
tions. But it has happened quite otherwise. Two 
days have we been wandering in the wood and the 
exit is still a long way off. The eye, contemplating a 
landscape from afar, takes in at a glance the tops of 
the trees and the peaks of the mountains. But the 
wide extent of the low-lying valleys and the dense 
tangles of brushwood thickets baffle its penetration. 
How, for example, could I have foreseen the miracle 
of Eliseus, until, whilst treating of the vocation of the 
Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews, it suddenly 
and unexpectedly crossed my vision ? And now that 
we have stumbled upon it, let us be content to dwell 
a little on the thoughts it suggests, which will lead us 
back again to the considerations we are intermitting. 
For in these thoughts, also, we shall find food for our 



150 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

souls. In the same manner, huntsmen and their hounds 
desist occasionally from the pursuit of the quarry they 
had first started, in order to chase another that springs 
up in their path. 

My brethren, I find solid ground for confidence in 
the thought that this great Prophet, namely, Christ, 
" a Man mighty in word and work," descending from 
the high mountain of heaven, deigned to visit me, 
" whereas I am but dust and ashes," to compassionate 
me as I lay in death, to bend over my prostrate form, 
to contract * and reduce Himself to my diminutive 
stature, to illumine my blindness with the very light 
of His Eyes, to cure my dumbness with the kiss of His 
Mouth, and to strengthen my feeble hands by the 
touch of His own. I find a sweet consolation in pon- 
dering upon these things. They replenish my soul with 
delight ; they enrich my spirit with an abundance of 
grace ; and cause all my bones to break out into praise 
of my Divine Benefactor. Such a restoration Christ 
wrought once for all in favour of the whole human 
race. But each one of us experiences daily in himself 
a rehearsal of it, when, namely, the light of under- 
standing is imparted to the heart, the word of edifi- 
cation to the mouth, and to the hand the work of 
justice. For it is He who gives us to think what is 

* The Saint refers, of course, to that contraction whereby the 
Divine Immensity reduced Itself to the littleness of our nature 
when Christ " Who, being in the form of God, thought it not 
robbery to be equal with God, emptied Himself, taking the form 
of a servant." St. Augustine also sees in the miracle of Eliseus 
a type and foreshadowing of the Incarnation. According to 
him, the Prophet's staff, sent on ahead by the servant Giezi, 
and which proved ineffectual to raise the child, symbolised the 
rod of Moses, or the Law, incapable of restoring fallen man from 
the death of sin to the life of grace. — (Translator.) 



ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 151 

true, to speak it to advantage, and to reduce it to 
practice in our lives. Herein we have a cord of triple 
strand, difficult to break, for delivering souls out of 
the devil's prison, and drawing them after us up into 
heaven. And the cord I speak of consists in this, that 
we conceive right sentiments, express them worthily, 
and prove the sincerity of our faith by conforming our 
lives to its teaching. With His own Eyes He has touched 
mine, adorning with the brilliant luminaries of faith 
and understanding the forehead, so to speak, of the 
interior man. He has joined His Mouth to mine, im- 
pressing the kiss of peace on the lips of the dead ; for 
when we were still sinners, dead to justice, He recon- 
ciled us to God. He applied His Mouth to mine, again 
breathing into my face the breath of life, but of a 
more holy life than the first. By the first He formed 
me " into a living soul," by the second He reformed me 
into a quickening spirit. He laid His Hands on mine, 
by giving me the example of good works, the pattern 
of obedience. Or certainly in that He " put forth His 
Hands to strong things," in order to " teach my hands 
to fight and my fingers to war." 

" And the child gaped seven times." For the mani- 
festation of the glory of the miracle, it was enough 
that he should gape once. The multiplicity therefore, 
and the reiteration until the mystical number seven 
was reached, point to a mystery. If you now con- 
template the huge body of the whole human race, at 
first, indeed, you behold it altogether devoid of ani- 
mation, like the corpse of the child. But when the 
universal Church has been restored to life by contact 
with the Prophet Who lay upon her, you will see her 
opening wide her mouth, gaping, as it were, seven 



152 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

times. That is to say, " seven times a day " she is 
accustomed to give praise to God. If you consider 
yourselves you may know by this that you are living 
a spiritual life and fulfilling the mystical number, if 
you subject the fivefold source of sensation to the two- 
fold law of charity, and, according to the Apostle, 
" yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctifi- 
cation," as before you yielded them " to serve iniquity 
unto iniquity." Or, otherwise, if you dedicate the same 
five senses to the work of advancing the salvation of 
your neighbour, and complete the number seven by 
adding two exercises relating to God, viz., the praise 
of His justice and the praise of His mercy. 

I have also to speak of seven other " gapings." I 
mean seven experimental tests, which are absolutely 
necessary, if we desire to be assured that our souls 
have recovered true life and health. Four of these 
tests regard the sense of compunction ; the rest are 
concerned with the voice of confession. If you have 
life, and voice, and feeling, you have also in yourselves 
an experience of the seven. You may be certain that 
your sensibility has been perfectly restored, if you 
notice that your conscience is pained with a fourfold 
compunction, comprising a twofold shame and a two- 
fold fear. Added to these four, the three modes of 
confession, of which I intend to speak later on, make 
up the mystical sevenfold and give us an assurance of 
our restoration to life. Does not holy Jeremias, in his 
Lamentations, observe this number four which, as I 
have said, belongs to compunction ? Do you, then, in 
your own lamentations, follow the example set by the 
Prophet. Think of God as your Creator, think of Him 
as your Benefactor, think of Him as your Father, 



ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 153 

think of Him as your Lord. In all these relations, you 
stand guilty before Him. Lament your offences against 
Him in regard to each. Let fear be awakened at the 
thought of the Creator and the Lord ; shame when you 
call to mind the offended Benefactor and Father. A 
father surely, for the reason that he is a father, cannot 
inspire fear. It is peculiar to a father " to compassion- 
ate always and to spare." And if he strikes, it is not 
with the staff of punishment but with the rod of cor- 
rection. Moreover, he soothes the pain his stroke has 
produced. Listen to a father's voice, " I will strike 
and I will heal." In a father, therefore, there is nothing 
to be afraid of, who, although sometimes administering 
chastisement as a remedy, can never inflict pain in 
vengeance. Yet, if the thought of having sinned against 
my Father in heaven does not inspire me with terror, 
it ought certainly to fill me with confusion. Freely 
did He beget me by the word of truth, and not under 
necessitating impulse, very differently from the father 
of my flesh. And for one so begotten He spared not 
even His only Necessarily-Begotten. Thus has He in- 
deed shown Himself a Father to me, but, alas! I, in 
my turn, have not behaved as a son towards Him. A 
son so evil of a Father so good, how shall I dare to lift 
up my eyes to His Face ? I am ashamed of having by 
my deeds dishonoured my ancestry. The thought that 
I have proved myself a degenerate son of a Father so 
noble overwhelms me with confusion. Let my eyes be- 
come as fountains of water ! Let confusion cover my 
countenance ! Let the blush of shame mantle my face 
and as a cloud overcast it ! Let " my life be wasted 
with griel, and my years with sighs ! " Alas ! alas ! 
what have I gained by those actions of which I am 



154 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

now so much ashamed ? If I have " sown in the flesh 
of the flesh also shall I reap," but only " corruption." 
If I have sown in the world " the world passeth away 
and the concupiscence thereof." What ! Have I been 
so lost to shame, so unhappy, so insane, as to prefer 
things transient, vain, and next to nothing, "the end 
whereof is death," to the love and honour of my Eternal 
Father ? I am confounded, I am overwhelmed at 
hearing the reproach, " If I be a Father where is My 
honour ? " 

But quite apart from the claims He has on me as 
my Father, He has also loaded me with His benefits. 
He multiplies His witnesses against me in the food He 
provides for my body, in the prolongation of my days, 
and, above all, in the Blood of His Beloved Son, Which 
" crieth from the earth " in my behalf, to say 
nothing of innumerable other favours. I blush for 
my ingratitude. And lest anything should be 
wanting to my confusion, I stand convicted of 
rendering evil for good, and hatred for love. 
Yet I have as little to fear from my Benefactor 
as from my Father. He is the true Benefactor, " Who 
giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not." 
He does not upbraid me on account of His gifts, for 
the reason that they are really gifts. The benefits of 
God are given gratis, not sold at a price, and, as the 
Apostle tells us, His " gifts are without repentance." 
But in proportion to my admiration for the divine 
generosity is the shame I am forced to feel for my own 
unworthiness. Be confounded, O my soul, be con- 
founded and saddened ! For, although it belongs not 
to a Benefactor to reproach or upbraid, it ill beseems 
us to be unmindful or ungrateful. Yet, woe is me ! 



ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 155 

even now, " what shall I render to the Lord for all 
the things that He hath rendered to me ? " 

But should shame be slothful and perform its work 
imperfectly, let fear be called to its assistance. Let 
fear be aroused in order to arouse the conscience. 
Turn away your attention a little, my brethren, from 
the tender names of Father and Benefactor, and direct 
it to other titles more severe. For of the Same Who is 
called " the Father of mercies and the God of all consola- 
tion," we also read, " The Lord is the God to Whom 
revenge belongeth," " God is a just Judge," " Who 
is terrible in His counsels over the sons of men," and 
" I am the Lord thy God, mighty and jealous." For 
you He is a Father and a Benefactor ; He is Lord and 
Creator for Himself. Hence the Scripture says, " He 
hath made all things for Himself." Do you, then, 
imagine that He Who defends and preserves to us what 
is ours, will not, sooner or later, show a like zeal for 
His own ? Do you suppose He will not require the 
honour of His principality ? And it is for this reason 
that "the wicked hath provoked God. For he hath 
said in his heart, He will not require it." And what 
is it to say in one's heart, " He will not require," except 
not to fear His requisition ? But He will require, even 
to the " last farthing." He will require, " and repay 
them abundantly that act proudly." He will require 
service from those whom He has redeemed, honour and 
glory from the creatures of His Hand. 

True, the Father overlooks, the Benefactor pardons ; 
but not so the Lord and the Creator. He Who as Father 
spares His child, will not as Creator spare His creature, 
will not as Lord have compassion on a wicked servant. 
Think, my brethren, what a dreadful, what a horrible 



156 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

thing it is to have despised your Maker and the Creator 
of all, to have offended the Lord of Majesty ! Fear is 
inspired by majesty, and fear is inspired by lordship, 
but especially by the Divine Majesty and the Divine 
Lordship. And if the penalty of death is imposed by 
human laws upon those who offend against human 
majesty, what shall be the fate of such as despise the 
Divine Omnipotence ? " He toucheth the mountains 
and they smoke," and does a little sack of vile dust, 
which may be scattered in a moment by a single breath 
beyond the possibility of recall, does such a thing dare 
to provoke so tremendous a Majesty ? He, my brethren, 
He indeed ought to fill us with dread, " Who, after He 
hath killed hath power to cast into hell." Ah, it is 
hell that makes me afraid. I fear the wrathful Coun- 
tenance of the Judge, which strikes terror even into the 
angelic spirits. I tremble when I call to mind the 
anger of the Omnipotent, and the face of His fury, and 
the crashing of a universe tottering to destruction, 
and the conflagration of the elements, and the mighty 
tempest, and the voice of the Archangel, and " the 
sharp word " of final reprobation. Horror overpowers 
me at the thought of the fangs of the infernal beast, 
of the bottomless abyss below, of the " lions roaring, 
ready for their prey." I shudder with affright when- 
ever I think of the gnawing worm that " dieth not," 
of the cataracts of fire, of the smoke, of the black 
enveloping vapours, of the sulphur, of the " storm of 
winds," and of the "exterior darkness." "Who will 
give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my 
eyes," that by weeping over my sins now I may prevent 
eternal weeping in the future, and escape the gnashing 
of teeth and the cruel fetters for hands and feet, and 



, ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 157 

the oppressive weight of chains, galling, cramping, 
burning, but not consuming ? Woe, woe is me, O my 
mother ! Oh, why didst thou bring me forth, to be a 
child of sorrow and bitterness, of eternal wrath, of 
everlasting lamentation ? Oh, why didst thou take 
upon thy knees and suckle at thy breast one that is but 
born to be fuel for the fire, destined for the burning ? 

He that is thus affected, my brethren, has without 
doubt recovered his sense of feeling ; and in this twofold 
fear, viz., of God as Creator and as Lord, added to the 
previously mentioned twofold shame of Him as Father 
and as Benefactor, he has four of the seven " gapirvgs." 
The three which remain, he will find in the voice of con- 
fession, so that it shall no longer be said of him that 
" there is neither voice nor feeling." If yet that voice 
of confession proceeds from a simple, humble, and 
trustful heart. Therefore, let him confess humbly, sin- 
cerely, and trustfully whatever troubles his conscience, 
and so he will have done what is required of him in 
this matter. There are some " who are glad when they 
have done evil, and rejoice in most wicked things." It 
is of such Isaias speaks where he says, " They have 
proclaimed abroad their sin as Sodom." But these, as 
being worldlings, I exclude from further consideration 
in my present discourse, for what have we to do with 
those " who are without " ? 

Yet even amongst persons who wear the religious 
habit and have made the monastic vows, I have 
occasionally heard some recounting and shamelessly 
boasting of the sins of their past. They proudly talk, 
for instance, of the great courage they gave evidence 
of in the duels which they fought whilst living in the 
world ; or of their skill in verbal disputations, or of 



158 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

other such exploits, honourable according to the vanity 
of the world, but hurtful, pernicious, ruinous to the 
interests of the soul. Such language betrays a worldly 
spirit. The humble habit of religion worn by these 
people, instead of being a sign that they have put on 
the new man of sanctity, is nothing but a cloak for the 
old man of sin. Others make mention of the same 
things as if in sorrow and penitence. But since they 
aim at self-glorification in their intention, they only de- 
ceive themselves, whilst their guilt remains. For " God 
is not mocked." They have not put off the old man, but 
they hide him under the new. The old leaven is neither 
given up nor cast forth by such a confession as this, 
but rather strengthened, according to the words : 
" Because I was silent, my bones grew old, whilst I 
cried out all the day long." I am ashamed to speak 
of the impudence of some who are brazen enough to 
boast exultantly of what ought to be expiated with 
tears of compunctiom, how, even after they were 
clothed in the sacred livery, they cleverly overreached 
such a brother ; how they outwitted another ; how 
they retaliated on such as injured them by word or 
deed. That is to say, they make it matter for boasting 
to have requited evil with evil, reproach with reproach ! 
There is still another kind of confession which is all 
the more dangerous in proportion as the vanity con- 
cealed in it is the more subtle and difficult to detect. 
I allude to that in which we have the boldness to reveal 
our crimes and abominations, not because we are 
humble, but because we desire to appear so. But to 
seek the praise of humility is not the virtue, but rather 
the subversion of humility. The really humble man is 
anxious not to be acclaimed for his humility, but to 



ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 159 

be reputed as vile. He rejoices in contempt, and glories 
in nothing but in his contempt of praise. What, my 
brethren, can be more perverse, what more unworthy 
than that confession of sin, the very guardian of hu- 
mility, should be pressed into the service of pride, and 
that you should wish to be reputed saints on account 
of that precisely which makes you to appear sinners ? 
This is surely a most extraordinary manner of boasting, 
as if one could not otherwise acquire a reputation for 
sanctity than by exhibiting himself as a criminal ! But 
as it has only the appearance, not the reality of humility, 
far from obtaining pardon, it even provokes the divine 
anger. Did it avail Saul anything to acknowledge his 
sin, when reproved by Samuel ? Doubtless, that con- 
fession must have been itself sinful, seeing that it did 
not merit the forgiveness of sin. For when did the 
Master of humility, Whose nature inclines Him to 
grant His grace to the humble, ever reject an humble 
confession ? No, He could not but be appeased, if 
only the humble sentiments which sounded on the lips 
were found also to be entertained in the heart. This is 
the reason why I have said confession must be humble. 
But it must also be simple. If evil has been really 
committed do not be at pains to justify the intention 
as you may feel tempted to do, inasmuch as this is 
not visible to the human eye. Do not try to palliate 
your fault, if you know it to be serious. Neither should 
you attempt to excuse it on the plea of persuasion by 
others, since no one can be compelled to do wrong 
against his will. To justify the intention is rather self- 
defence than self-accusation, and calls down, instead 
of appeasing, the anger of heaven. To extenuate one's 
guilt shows a want of gratitude, because by striving 



160 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

to lessen your culpability, you detract from the glory 
of the divine mercy which pardons you . Besides, favours 
are conferred the less willingly, accordingly as they 
are observed to be the less thankfully received, as being 
considered by the recipient the less necessary to him. 
Consequently, he who depreciates the divine bounty, 
by endeavouring with words to extenuate his guilt, 
forfeits thereby the divine forgiveness. Let the example 
of the first man deter you from transferring to others 
the responsibility of your transgression. Adam did 
not deny his fault, yet he did not obtain pardon, and 
the reason doubtless was because he made mention 
also of the sin of his wife. That is a familiar way of 
excusing oneself, namely, when accused yourselves to 
accuse another. But let holy David tell you how not 
merely unprofitable, but even pernicious it is to wish to 
excuse oneself by accusing one's neighbour. " Evil 
words " he calls " excuses in sins." And he begs and 
entreats the Lord not to " incline his heart " to them. 
Nor without reason. For he who excuses his guilt sins 
against his own soul, rejects the medicine of pardon, 
and thus with his own mouth deprives himself of spiri- 
tual life. What can be more malicious than to take 
up arms in this way against one's own salvation, and 
to pierce oneself, so to speak, with one's own sword ? 
" He that is evil to himself, to whom will he be good ? " 
It is also required that confession should be trustful. 
This is necessary in order that it may be made in hope, 
with full confidence of forgiveness, lest otherwise, in- 
stead of being justified, you condemn yourselves with 
your own lips. Judas, who betrayed Our Lord, and 
Cain, who slew his brother, both confessed, but both 
without confidence. " I have sinned," said the former, 



ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 161 

" in betraying innocent blood." " My iniquity," ex- 
claimed the latter, " is greater than that I may deserve 
pardon." Truthful confessions both, but unavailing, 
because untrustful. These three qualities of a good 
confession, added to the four properties of acceptable 
compunction, considered just now, will make up the 
mystical seven. 

Now, when you feel such compunction and have so 
confessed, and consequently are assured of the pos- 
session of life, you will also, as I think, admit as 
certain that the name Jesus is no empty title in Him 
Who has both the will and the power to work such 
wonders in you ; and that it has not been in vain He 
Himself followed the staff which He sent on before. 
His coming has not been in vain, because He came not 
empty. How, indeed, could He be empty in Whom 
dwelt the fulness of the Divinity? For to Him the 
Spirit has not been given in measure. Moreover, 
it is written that He came in the " fulness of 
time " to indicate to us that He came not empty. 
Assuredly He was full Whom the Father " hath an- 
ointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows." 
And He was anointed that He might Himself anoint 
us. AH who have deserved to receive of His fulness, 
have been anointed by Him. Therefore He says, 
' The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord 
hath anointed Me. He hath sent Me to preach to the 
meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a 
release to the captives, and deliverance to them that 
are shut up, to proclaim the acceptable year of the 
Lord." He came, as you have just heard, to anoint 
our sores and to soothe our sorrows. Therefore did 
He come anointed. Therefore did He come " sweet 
i. t 



l62 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

and mild, and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon 
Him " He knew He was descending to an afflicted 
race and assumed the character most necessary for 
their relief And as there were many infirmities, like 
a physician of wisdom and foresight, He came pro- 
vided with many remedies. He brought with Him the 
Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit ot 
counsel and fortitude, the Spirit of knowledge and 
piety, and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord 

You see, my brethren, what a number of phials full 
of precious ointments this heavenly Physician pre- 
pared for healing the wounds of that poor man who 
fell amongst robbers." They are seven in number, de- 
signed perhaps for the excitation of the above-mentioned 
seven " gapings." For the Spirit of life dwelt in these 
phials Out of them, certainly, He poured oil upon 
my wounds. He also poured wine, but less wine than 
oil That is to say, He so accommodated His treat- 
ment to my infirmities, that mercy should be exalted 
over justice, just as the oil floats above wine when 
poured into the same vessel. He brought five vessels 
of oil as against only two of wine. For it is only fear 
and fortitude that wine can be understood to sym- 
bolise The other five virtues, namely, wisdom, under- 
standing, counsel, knowledge, and piety, suggest the 
idea of oil by the sweetness of their flavour In the 
Spirit of fortitude, " like a mighty man that hath been 
surfeited with wine," He descended into hell, broke 
in pieces the gates of brass, and burst the bars of iron 
In the same Spirit He bound " the strong man, and 
delivered human souls from the yoke of Satan But 
He descended also in the Spirit of fear, not of fear 
felt by Himself, but of fear to be struck into others. 



ON THE MYSTICAL NUMBER SEVEN 163 

O Wisdom, powerfully sweet and sweetly powerful ! 
With what healing art in wine and oil dost thou restore 
the health of my soul ! Surely thou " reachest from 
end to end mightly and disposest all things sweetly," 
driving far off the enemy and taking care of the weak » 
' Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed." I will sing 
and praise Thy name, and will say, " Thy name is as 
oil poured out." Not as wine poured out, for wine 
signifies power and fear, and O Lord, " enter not into 
judgment with Thy servant " ; but as oil, since Thou 
dost " crown me with mercy and compassion." Yes 
as oil, which, floating above all liquids, into which it is 
poured, by this property beautifully typifies the name 
which is above all names." O name, exceeding sweet 
exceeding savoury! O name, glorious beyond all' 
chosen out of all, sublime and exalted above all for 
ever ! This is truly the oil that makes " the face of 
man cheerful," that " fattens the head " of him who 
fasts, so that he does not feel the oil of the sinner. 
This is the " new name which the Mouth of the Lord 
hath named," which was even " called by the angel 
before He was conceived in the womb." Not alone 
the Jew, but " whosoever shall call upon this name 
shall be saved," for to this purpose has it been poured 
out. This the Father gave to His Son, the Bridegroom 
of the Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is over 
all things, God blessed for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XVII 

On the Coming and Going of the Spirit and on 
Satan's envy of the Human Race. 

" Thy name is as oil poured out." 

Do you think, my brethren, that we have now, in 
our efforts to fathom the admirable mysteries con- 
cealed in our text, " Thy name is as oil poured out," 
penetrated far enough into the sanctuary of God? 
Or do you wish that we continue our scrutiny, if aught 
still remains unexamined, and venture to follow the 
Spirit even into the Holy of Holies ? For this Spirit 
"searcher*" not alone "the hearts and reins" of 
men, but also " the deep things of God." Securely 
may we follow Him, V whithersoever He goeth," in 
things divine or in things human. Only let us pray 
Him to guard our hearts and our minds, lest haply 
we should think Him to be with us when He is away, 
and mistaking our own spirit for Him, so wander from 
our course. He comes and goes as He wills, and none 
can easily know " whence He cometh or whither He 
goeth." Such ignorance does not, perhaps, involve any 
risk to our salvation. But inability to recognise His 
coming and His going would manifestly be attended 
with the gravest peril. For when we do not observe 
most carefully these vicissitudes of grace, these advents 
and withdrawals of the Holy Ghost, designed in His 
providence for our good, the result is that He is neither 
desired when absent, nor glorified when present. He 

164 



ON THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT 165 

retires from the soul in order to excite us to seek Him 
the more eagerly. But how can this be, if we are un- 
aware of His departure ? Again, He graciously returns 
to console us. But how is it possible to welcome Him 
with the honour due to His Majesty, unless His arrival 
attracts our attention ? He, therefore, that is in- 
sensible to His going, lies open to the seduction of the 
enemy. He that observes not His coming can feel no 
gratitude for the gracious visitation. 

Eliseus of old asked a favour of his master, the Prophet 
Elias, when he perceived that his (Elias's) departure 
was at hand. But, as you know, he did not obtain 
his request except on condition that he should see the 
man of God when the latter was being taken up from 
him to heaven. This happened to them in figure, and 
has been recorded for our instruction. The example 
of Eliseus teaches and admonishes us to watch with 
solicitude over the work of our salvation, which the 
Holy Spirit operates within us unceasingly, with the 
marvellous skill and sweetness of His own divine art. 
My brethren, let us so attend to this gracious Spirit, 
Who is our Heavenly Mentor and "teacheth (us) all 
things " necessary, that He can never be taken away 
from us, without our knowledge, if we do not wish 
to be deprived of His double gift.* Let Him 
never, therefore, at His coming, find us unprepared, 
but always on the watch, with faces uplifted and 
hands stretched forth to receive a rich benediction 

* This double gift (Duplicatum munus) is apparently the two- 
fold operation of the Holy Spirit which forms the subject of the 
following sermon. There is allusion to the " double spirit " 
promised as a parting gift to Eliseus, if he beheld his master 
Elias at the moment of his assumption. See 4 Kings xi. — 
(Translator.) 



166 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

from the Lord. What kind of souls does He condescend 
to visit ? Such, we are told, as are " like to men who 
wait for their Lord, when He shall return from the 
wedding." And surely this Lord never returns empty- 
handed from that heavenly table which is laden with 
such an abundance of good things. We must watch, 
then, we must be on the alert at all times, because we 
know not at what hour the Spirit will come, nor at 
what hour He will again take His departure. He goes 
and He returns ; and the soul that kept her feet whilst 
supported by Him, must of necessity fall, when He 
withdraws His Hand. But, though falling, she "shall 
not be bruised, for the Lord putteth His Hand under " 
her again. Such alternations of fervour and aban- 
donment never cease in those who are spiritual, or 
rather the Holy Ghost never ceases from " visiting 
early in the morning, and suddenly proving" those 
whom He designs to advance in spirituality. " The 
just man shall fall seven times, and shall rise again." 
Yet so, if he falls in the day, that is to say, if he sees 
himself falling and knows that he has fallen, and thus, 
desiring to rise, may seek the Hand of his Supporter, 
and say, " O Lord, in Thy favour, Thou gavest strength 
to my beauty ; Thou turnedst away Thy Face from 
me and I became troubled." 

It is one thing, my brethren, to doubt the truth 
indeliberately, which is inevitable with us when the 
Spirit ceases to illuminate our souls by His inspira- 
tions; but it is quite another thing to embrace volun- 
tarily what is false. This latter misfortune we may 
avoid by not remaining in ignorance of our own ignor- 
ance, so that we also may say, " And if I have been 
ignorant of anything, my ignorance is with me," viz., 



ON THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT 167 

" is known to me." These, my brethren, are the words 
of holy Job. Do you not recognise them ? Error and 
doubt are the two evil daughters of an evil mother, 
ignorance. Error is of the two the more wretched, 
doubt the more deserving of compassion. The former 
state is the more pernicious, the latter the more painful. 
But at the word of the Spirit both disappear, and there 
succeeds to them not simply truth, but the certain 
assurance of truth. For the Holy Ghost is the Spirit 
of truth, to which error is contrary. He is also the 
Spirit of wisdom, being the " Brightness of eternal 
life," " reaching everywhere by reason of His purity " 
and admitting nothing of the obscurity that belongs 
to error and ignorance. When He ceases to speak to 
us, we must be on our guard, if not against distressing 
doubt, which we cannot avoid, at all events against 
detestable error. In a state of uncertainty, there is 
a very wide difference between holding as probable 
this or that opinion, and rashly asserting what one 
has no real knowledge of. Therefore, either let the 
Holy Spirit never cease to commune with us, which, 
of course, depends entirely on His own good pleasure ; 
or if He is pleased sometimes to remain silent, let 
Him at least give us warning of this, and so speak to 
us still by His silence. Otherwise, mistakenly sup- 
posing that He continues to lead us, we shall, with 
fatal security, follow, instead of Him, our own deluding 
spirit. If, then, it is His good pleasure to leave us 
sometimes in the perplexity of doubt, let Him not, 
at any rate, ever abandon us to the deception of error. 
There are some, my brethren, who say what is false, 
but sincerely and in good faith, and these, conse- 
quently, are not guilty of falsehood. And some there 



168 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

are who affirm the truth which they know not, and 
these are really liars. The former do not assert that 
to be a fact which is not, but simply that they believe 
what they really do believe, and so they speak the 
truth ; although what they believe is not objectively 
true. Whereas, the latter, by pretending to be certain 
when they are not certain, speak falsely even when 
that which they say happens to be true.* 

Having premised this much for the instruction of 
such as are inexpeiienced in these matters, I will now 
follow the Spirit, Who, as I trust, precedes to guide 
me. Yet I will myself, as far as I can, observe the 
same precautions which I have recommended to you. 
I will endeavour to practise what I preach. Otherwise 
to me also it may be said, " Thou that teachest others, 
teachest not thyself." Doubtless, it is necessary to 
distinguish between what is evident and what is un- 
certain, so that the former may not be called in ques- 
tion, nor the latter boldly maintained. But even for 
this, we must depend upon the assistance of the Holy 
Ghost, for our own efforts are insufficient. What man 
knows, for instance, whether the judgment passed by 
God upon the case of the Jew and the Gentile, as set 
forth in an earlier discourse (the third, I think, before 

* That is to say, a lie consists essentially in speaking against 
one's belief — locutio contra mentem. Hence it would be a lie to 
speak as true what one mistakenly supposes to be false, whilst 
there would be no lie in saying what one sincerely but erro- 
neously believes to be true. A statement is materially 
(objectively) true or false, according as it is or is not in con- 
formity with fact. Formal (subjective) truth or falsity is the 
conformity or difformity between one's words and one's thoughts. 
St. Augustine considered that the intention to deceive belongs 
to the essence of a lie, but this is not generally admitted. — 
(Translator.) 



ON THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT 169 

this) was not preceded by similar judgment, pronounced 
even in heaven ? 

My meaning is this. Do you not suppose that Lucifer, 
who arose in the morning, and with impatient ambition 
mounted on high — do you not think that he also, before 
he was cast down into eternal darkness, envied the 
human race the oil poured out upon it, and in anger 
began to murmur, saying within himself, " To what 
purpose is this waste ? " I do not claim that this is 
from the Spirit. But I do assert that it is not contra- 
dicted by the Spirit. Hence, as to its truth or falsity, 
I am simply ignorant. However, what I say is not 
impossible, and there is no reason why it should seem 
incredible, namely, that a spiritual creature, full of 
wisdom, and of surpassing beauty, might have fore- 
known that men were to be created and advanced to 
equal glory with himself. But if he did foreknow this, 
it was doubtless because he read it in the Word of 
God.* Then, in his malice, he waxed envious, and 
designed to have as his subjects those whom he scorned 
to recognise as his equals. "They are weaker than 
I," he said to himself ; "they are of an inferior nature. 
It is not fitting, therefore, that they should be my 
fellow-citizens, my compeers in glory." Perchance, 
that proud ascent of his, and that sitting down in the 
manner of a master, manifested his wicked design. 
' I will ascend into heaven," he said, " I will sit in 
the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the 

* " Sed si praescivit, in Dei Verbo absque dubio vidit." The 
meaning of this seems to be that it was in the mystery of the 
Incarnation, foreshown to him, that Lucifer read the pre- 
destination of man to a supernatural glory equal to his own. 
Otherwise, it is not easy to see why the Saint should make 
pecial mention of the Word. — (Translator.) 



170 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

north." Thus he hoped to become like to the Most 
High ; so that, just as the Lord God, seated above 
the Cherubim, governed the whole angelic creation, he 
himself, in the same way, throned on high, would rule 
the race of man. But God forbid that he should have 
his wish ! " He hath devised iniquity on his bed." 
But let his " iniquity lie to itself." As for us, we will 
recognise no judge but our Maker. Not the devil, 
but the Lord " shall judge the world," and " He is 
our God for ever and ever, He shall rule us for 
evermore." 

Therefore, my brethren, that proud spirit " conceived 
sorrow," that is, envious rancour, in heaven, and in 
paradise, where he seduced our first parents, he 
" brought forth iniquity," the daughter of malice, the 
mother of death and of misery. And pride is the mother 
of all. For, although it was " by the envy of the devil 
that death came into the world," nevertheless it is 
written that " pride is the beginning of all sin." But 
" what hath pride profit eth " Lucifer ? Nothing at all, 
for in spite of his malicious designs, "Thou, O Lord, 
art among us, and Thy name is called upon us." Hence 
Thy " purchased people," hence " the Church of the 
redeemed" exclaims, "'Thy name is as oil poured 
out.' Even when, by sin, I deserve to be cast forth, 
Thou dost pour this oil of mercy and pardon after me 
and over me, because ' when Thou art angry Thou wilt 
remember mercy.' " Nevertheless, Satan has obtained 
an empire over the sons of pride, being made prince of 
"this darkness," to the end that even pride itself 
should subserve the interests of the kingdom of humility. 
And thus, whilst his one temporal principality of dark- 
ness remains to him, such as it is, he is constantly 



ON THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT 171 

helping to establish multitudes of the humble on ex- 
alted and eternal thrones. Surely a happy dispensation, 
that the proud oppressor of the humble should be thus 
unwittingly fashioning everlasting crowns for them, 
attacking all and conquered by all. For always and 
everywhere the Lord shall judge His people, " He shall 
save the children of the poor, and He shall humble 
the oppressor." Yes, in all places and at all times, He 
will defend His own, repel their enemies, " and will 
not leave the rod of sinners upon the lot of the just, 
that the just may not stretch forth their hands to 
iniquity." And the time will come when He shall at 
last, and completely, " destroy the bow and break the 
arms, and the shield He shall burn with fire." Thou, 
O most miserable one ! hast fixed thy seat in the north, 
in the region of clouds and cold ; and, lo ! " the needy " 
are lifted up " from the dust," and " the poor from the 
dung-hill," " that they may sit with princes and hold 
the throne of glory," and that thou mayst grieve the 
more at beholding the fulfilment of the prophecy, " the 
poor and the needy shall praise Thy name." 

Thanks to Thee, Father of the fatherless, and De- 
fender of the orphans, " a curdled mountain, a fat 
mountain " has imparted to us its heat. " The heavens 
dropped (dew) at the presence of the God of Sinai." 
Oil has been poured out. Thy name has been spread 
abroad — the name which the enemy enviously be- 
grudged to us, as he did us to it. That name, I say, 
has been spread abroad, extending even to the hearts 
and lips of little ones. For " out of the mouth of infants 
and sucklings " it has " perfected praise." Then, " the 
sinner shall see and shall be angry." But as his anger 
is implacable, so shall the fire be inextinguishable 



*72 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

" which is prepared for the devil and his angels." " The 
zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." How Thou 
lovest me, O my God, my Love ! how Thou lovest 
me ! Everywhere Thou art mindful of me ! Every- 
where Thou are zealous for my salvation, not alone 
against the pride of men, but even against the pride 
of exalted angelic spirits ! Both in heaven and on 
earth " Thou, O Lord, dost judge them that wrong me, 
dost overthrow them that fight against me." Every- 
where Thou art my defence ! Everywhere Thou art 
my support ! Everywhere Thou dost appear at my 
right hand ! For these things " in my life I will praise 
the Lord ; I will sing to my God as long as 1 shall be." 
These are His works of power, these are " His wonders 
which He hath wrought." That is the first and the 
greatest of His judgments, which the Virgin Mary, the 
confidante of His secrets, revealed to me, when she 
said, " He hath put down the mighty from their seat, 
and hath exalted the humble ; He hath filled the hungry 
with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty 
away." " The second " of His judgments " is like unto 
this," and you have already heard it, viz., "that they 
who see not may see, and that they who see may become 
blind." In these two judgments let the poor man 
console himself, and let him sing, " I remembered, O 
Lord, Thy judgments of old, and I was comforted." 

But we must now return to ourselves and examine 
our ways. And that we may do this sincerely, let us 
invoke the Spirit of truth. Let us recall Him out of 
the deep into which He has led us, that He may deign 
to guide us back again to ourselves, because without 
Him we can do nothing. Nor ought we to fear lest 
He should refuse to condescend to us. Rather we shall 



ON THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT 173 

provoke His indignation by attempting anything what- 
ever without His concurrence. For He is not " a spirit 
that goeth and returneth not," but He leads us forth 
and back again "from glory to glory " as being "the 
Spirit of the Lord," sometimes ravishing us unto His 
own divine light, sometimes tempering His influence 
upon us, and only "illuminating our darkness," so 
that, whether raised above ourselves, or left with our- 
selves, we may always be in light, always walk as " the 
sons of light." We have now, at length, come forth 
from the dim forest of allegories. It remains to seek 
out the moral meanings of our text. Our faith has 
been confirmed, let our conduct exhibit a correspond- 
ing improvement. Our minds have been instructed, let 
our morals show the result. " Understanding is good 
for all that do it," for those, namely, who direct their 
actions and their thoughts to the glory of Our Lord 
Jesus Christ, Who is over all things, God blessed for 
ever. Amen. 



SERMON XVIH 
On the Two Operations of the Holy Ghost. 

" Thy name is as oil poured out." 

"Thy name is as oil poured out." What, my 
brethren, is that fact concerning ourselves, which the 
Holy Ghost desires to make us certain of by the words 
of this text ? Surely (and it is only since my last 
discourse it has occurred to me *) He intends thereby 
to confirm what we know from experience, namely, 
that His operation in us is twofold. For He not only 
fortifies us interiorly with virtues, unto our own sal- 
vation, but He also adorns us exteriorly with His gifts, 
unto the salvation of others. The former are bestowed 
upon us for our own sakes, the latter with a view to 
our neighbour's advantage. For instance, we obtain 
faith, hope, and charity for ourselves, as without them 

* This seems to be the simplest and most natural rendering 
of the parenthetical clause — quod occurrit interim. It is not 
contradicted by the reference to the twofold operation in the 
preceding sermon, since what is said to have been suggested 
in the meantime is not the twofold character of the Spirit's 
operation, but the connexion of that with the words of the 
text. St. Bernard sometimes uses the word " interim " to 
denote the present life, in which sense it is possible to under- 
stand it here. The meaning then will be that the experience 
of the two operations of the Holy Ghost, Infusion and Effusion 
(the gratia gratum jaciens and gratia gratis data of later theolo- 
gians), is limited to our earthly existence, which is certainly true. 
Less warranted both by the words themselves and by the 
context is the interpretation given by some : " which is next in 
order." — (Translator.) 

*74 



TWO OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST 175 

salvation is impossible. On the other hand, the word 
of wisdom and knowledge, the grace of healing, the 
gift of prophecy, and the like, which are in no sense 
necessary to the saving of our own souls, are communi- 
cated, doubtless, to be employed in promoting the spiri- 
tual interests of others. These operations or graces of 
the Holy Spirit, experienced in ourselves or in others, 
I will, if you allow me, call Infusion and Effusion, re- 
spectively, deriving the names from the ends for which 
they are bestowed. But of which is it said, " Thy name 
is as oil poured out " ? Manifestly, of Effusion. For 
if the reference were to Infusion, it would be more proper 
to say, "Thy name is as oil poured in," than "Thy 
name is as oil poured out." Besides, it is because of 
the good odour of the breasts, exteriorly perfumed, that 
the Spouse exclaims, " Thy name is as oil poured out," 
attributing the aroma to the name of her Beloved, as 
to a sweet perfume on her breasts. In the same way, 
everyone who knows himself to be favoured with the 
gift of exterior grace, capable of being communicated 
to others, every sucH person, I say, may exclaim in 
wonder and gratitude, " Thy name is as oil poured out." 
Yet, with regard to these graces, both interior and 
exterior, we must be on our guard against two tempta- 
tions. These are, on the one hand, to give away what 
we have received for ourselves, and, on the other, 
to retain for ourselves what has been entrusted to us 
for the benefit of our neighbours. Certainly, you incur 
the guilt of keeping what belongs to another, if, whilst 
full of virtues, and adorned exteriorly with the endow- 
ments of wisdom and eloquence, through fear or sloth, 
or influenced by indiscreet humility, you seal under a 
useless, I should rather say, criminal silence, the 



176 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

" good word," which might have subserved the progress 
of many. Of such we read in Proverbs, "He that 
hideth up corn shall be cursed among the people. " 
On the contrary, you waste and squander what you 
should keep for yourselves, when, without waiting for 
a complete infusion of the Spirit, you are impatient, 
although not more than half full, to empty yourselves 
out upon others. Thus you transgress the law which 
forbids us to plough with the first-born of the cow, or 
to shear the first-born of the sheep. I mean to say, 
you deprive yourselves of the life and health which you 
are communicating to others ; because, whilst trying to 
serve your neighbours without purity of intention, you 
are but inflating yourselves with the wine of vainglory 
or inoculating yourselves with the poison of cupidity, 
or exposing to loss your own lives by fostering the 
swelling of the deadly aposteme of pride. 

Wherefore, my brethren, if you be wise, you will 
make yourselves to be reservoirs rather than conduits. 
The difference between a conduit and a reservoir is 
this, that whereas the former discharges all its waters 
almost as soon as received, the latter waits until 
it is full to the brim, and only communicates what is 
superfluous, what it can give away without loss to 
itself. Remember that a curse has been pronounced 
against him who deteriorates the lot which has been 
transmitted to him.* And lest you should despise my 
counsel, attend to one who is wiser than I. "A fool," 
says Solomon, "uttereth all his mind; a wise man 
deferreth and keepeth it till afterwards." Yet we have 

* This seems to be an allusion to the land-laws under 
which the Hebrews received and retained their lots. See 
Leviticus xxv. — (Translator.) 



TWO OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST 177 

in the Church to-day many conduits and but very few 
reservoirs. So great is the charity of those through 
whom the celestial streams of knowledge are com- 
municated to us, that they want to give away before 
they have received. They are more willing to speak 
than to listen. They are forward to teach what they 
have not learned. Although unable to govern them- 
selves, they gladly undertake to rule others. For my 
part, I think that, with regard to one's own salvation, 
no degree of charity is so necessary as that which 
Solomon proposes to us, where he says, "Have pity 
on thy own soul, pleasing God." If I have but a very 
small stock of oil for my own use, do you consider I 
ought to give that little away, and keep nothing for 
myself ? But I want all I have for my own anointing, 
nor will I share it with others, except at the bidding 
of a prophet, like the widow of Sarepta at the word of 
Elias. And should some of those " who think of me 
above that which they see in me, or hear anything of 
me/' persist in demanding a share of my oil, they shall 
get this answer : " Lest, perhaps, there be not enough 
for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and 
buy for yourselves." But you may tell me, " Charity 
seeketh not her own." No, indeed, but do you know 
why ? She " seeketh not her own " because, no doubt, 
nothing of her own is wanting to her, and so needing J 
to be sought. Who seeks for that which he already 
possesses ? Charity is never without "her own," that 
is, without what is necessary for her own salvation. 
Not only has she what is requisite in this respect, but 
she has it in superabundance. She wishes to abound 
first unto herself, that she may also abound unto 
others. She keeps a sufficiency for herself, so that she 

I. M 



178 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

may be wanting to none. For charity that is not full 
is not perfect. 

But, O my brother, thy salvation has yet to be 
secured. Thy charity is either non-existent, or so 
delicate and reed-like that it bends to every blast, 
gives credit to every spirit, " is carried about with 
every wind of doctrine." And yet so great is it that, 
not content with what is of precept, it inclines thee 
to go beyond and to love thy neighbour even more 
than thyself ; whilst, at the same time, it is so little, 
that contrary to what is commanded, it dissolves in 
consolation, faints under fear, loses its peace in sadness, 
is contracted by greed, distracted by ambition, dis- 
quieted by suspicion, disturbed by reproof, tormented 
with care, inflated with honour, consumed with envy. 
Then, by what strange madness, I ask, dost thou, per- 
ceiving thyself to be such, desire or consent to be the 
director of others? But hear the counsel given by a 
cautious and vigilant charity : " Not that others should 
be eased," writes St. Paul, "and you burthened, but 
by an equality." " Be not over just." It suffices that 
thou lovest thy neighbour as thyself, and " by an 
equality." David prayed, " Let my soul be filled as 
with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise 
Thee with joyful lips." That is, he wished to receive 
before communicating. And not only to receive, but 
even to be replenished, so that his giving might resemble 
in its easiness rather the eructation of satiety than the 
yawning which proceeds from an empty stomach . In this 
manner he observes caution, lest " others should be 
eased " and he himself " burthened." He also preserved 
a right intention in imparting his gifts in imitation of 
Him " of Whose fulness we have all received." Do 



TWO OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST 179 

thou, likewise, my brother, learn to belch forth of thy 
fulness, and do not desire to be more generous than 
God. Let the reservoir imitate its fountain. The foun- 
tain sends out no current, and foims no lake until it 
has first filled itself with its waters. It ought to be no 
shame to the reservoir that it does not surpass its source 
in prodigality. Was not the very Well- Spring of life 
full in Himself and of Himself ere He would, like a 
brimming fountain, overflow and pour out His divine 
treasures first into those secluded heavenly regions that 
lay nearest, viz., the angelic creation, and there " fill 
all things with good " ? Then, having replenished all the 
loftier and more secret parts, He streamed down upon 
the earth, and out of His superabundance, "saved men 
and beasts, according as He hath multiplied His mercy." 
First, He filled the higher and more interior spaces. 
Afterwards, overleaping the bounds of heaven, " He 
hath visited the earth in many mercies," inebriated it 
with gladness, "and many ways enriched it." There- 
fore, " go and do thou in like manner." Fill thyself 
in the first place, and then endeavour to fill others. 
The charity which combines prudence with generosity 
is wont to flow in before flowing out. " My son," 
says Solomon, " do not let slip." And the Apostle, 
" Therefore ought we more diligently to observe the 
things which we have heard, lest perhaps we should 
let them slip." What ! Art thou holier than St. Paul, 
or wiser than Solomon ? Otherwise, I do not want to 
be made rich by thy self-spoliation. And if thou art 
evil to thyself, to whom wilt thou be good ? Help me, 
if thou canst, out of thy abundance. But if thou hast 
nothing to spare, then spare thy little for thyself. 
But hear now, my brethren, what and how much is 



180 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

necessary to one's own salvation, what and how much 
ought to be poured into us before we can safely pre- 
sume to pour anything out. At present, I must com- 
press this part of my instruction within very narrow 
limits, for the time has slipped and I shall soon have to 
finish. The Divine Physician has come to the wounded 
man, the Holy Spirit to the soul. For where is the soul 
which has not been transpierced with the devil's sword, 
even after the remedial virtue of Baptism has healed 
the wound of original sin ? When, therefore, the Holy 
Spirit approaches the soul which has invoked Him, 
and which says, " My sores are putrified and cor- 
rupted because of my foolishness," what is the first 
thing to be done ? Surely, to cut away any ulcerous 
growth which may have appeared in the wound, and 
which would prevent or retard its healing. Hence, 
let the keen knife of compunction remove the tumour 
of sinful habit. The pain shall indeed be very sharp. 
But let it be soothed with the sweet ointment of 
devotion, which is nothing else than the joy con- 
ceived from the hope of pardon. This hope is itself 
begotten of the experience of the power to control our 
passions, and of the victory we have gained over sin. 
Then the soul gives thanks and cries, " Thou hast 
broken my bonds ; I will sacrifice to Thee the sacrifice 
of praise." Next is applied the medicament of penance, a 
healing poultice of watchings, fastings, and prayers, and 
of all other kinds of penitential exercises. But whilst 
engaged in the labours of penance we must not forget 
to nourish ourselves with the meat of good works, lest 
otherwise we faint. And what this meat is the Divine 
Master tells us in the words, " My meat is to do the 
will of Him That sent Me." So, let the works of piety, 



TWO OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST 181 

which are a source of strength, accompany our practices 
of penance. " Alms," says Tobias, " shall be a great 
confidence before the Most High God." But meat ex- 
cites thirst, which has to be slaked. Therefore, we must 
add to the solid food of good works the drink of prayer, 
which by moistening this meat of virtuous action shall 
make it more easy to digest for the stomach of the 
conscience, and render it more pleasing to the Lord. 
It is in prayer that we drink the " wine which rejoiceth 
the heart of man," the wine of the Spirit, which intoxi- 
cates the soul with holy love, and banishes from her the 
memory of sensual delights. This wine irrigates the 
parched interior of the conscience, facilitates, as already 
remarked, the digestion of the meat of good works, 
and distributes the nutriment amongst the members of 
the soul (if you allow me the expression), confirming 
faith, fortifying hope, enlivening and regulating charity, 
and anointing all our actions with the rich unction of 
grace. 

Having thus satisfied her hunger and thirst, what 
now remains for the sick soul, except to rest and to 
give herself up to the quiet of contemplation after the 
painful fatigues of action ? But whilst she thus slumbers 
in the peace of prayer, she sees God, as in a dream. 
That is to say, she sees Him " through a glass, in a dark 
manner," and not yet " face to face." Nevertheless, al- 
though He is not so much perceived as He is in Himseli 
and immediately, as vaguely felt and apprehended,* 

* For a comparison of the mystical with the Beatific Vision 
of God, see Poulain's Graces oj Prayer, p. 261, Eng. Trans. The 
knowledge obtained in both is said to be experimental ; yet the 
difference is not only in degree of clarity but in kind. For it 
is only in the Beatific Vision that God is revealed as He is in 
Himself. Theologians are not agreed as to whether this Vision 



i82 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

and that but in a passing way, and by the light of a 
sudden and momentary blaze of glory, so great a flame of 
love is enkindled in her by this obscure and transient 
vision that she exclaims, " My soul hath desired Thee 
in the night, yea, and my spirit within me." Such a 
love is full of zeal. Such a love is becoming in the 
friend of the Bridegroom. Such a love must be pos- 
sessed by "the faithful and wise servant, whom his 
Lord hath appointed over His family." Such a love 
fills up the soul's capacity ; it waxes hot and boils 
over. Then may it securely pour itself out, overflowing 
and overleaping its bounds and crying aloud, "Who is 
weak and I am not weak ? Who is scandalised and I 
am not on fire?" Let him that is such preach the 
word and make it fructify ; let him multiply signs and 
wonders ; because there is no room for vanity in the 
soul where all is charity. For charity is the fulfilling 
of the heart no less than of the law, if yet it be full 
in itself. " God is charity," and there is nothing in 
the world capable of filling a creature made to God's 
image excepting that alone which is greater than the 
creature, viz., the charity which is God. Until this 
has been acquired, no man can be appointed to re- 
sponsible office without the gravest peril to himself, 
whatever other virtues he may seem to possess. If one 
should have all knowledge, if he should distribute all 
his goods to feed the poor, even should he deliver his 
body to be burned, still, without charity he is empty. 
Behold now how much has to be poured into us in 

has ever been granted transiently to any saint as a viator. The 
most probable case seems to be that of St. Paul, when he was 
rapt up to the third heaven and "heard secret words which it is 
not granted to man to utter." — (Translator.) 



TWO OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST 183 

order that we may venture to pour out, giving of our 
plenitude, not of our poverty. Firstly, compunction ; 
secondly, devotion ; thirdly, the endurance of penance ; 
fourthly, the exercise of piety ; fifthly, the fervour of 
prayer ; sixthly, the quiet of contemplation ; seventhly, 
the fulness of love. " All these things one and the same 
Spirit worketh, dividing to everyone according "to the 
operation which I have named Infusion. And He does 
so in order that the other operation, called Effusion, 
may be exercised purely (and therefore securely) for 
the praise and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, 
with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and 
reigneth for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XIX 

On the different Motives on Account of which 
Christ the Lord is Loved by the various 
Choirs of Angels. 

" Therefore young maidens have loved Thee." 

The loving Spouse continues still to speak; still she 
continues to proclaim the praises of her Beloved. And 
she appeals for further grace, pointing out that that 
which she has already received " hath not been void " 
in her. For listen to her now. " Therefore," she 
proceeds to say, " young maidens have loved Thee." 
As if she should affirm, " not in vain, not without fruit 
has Thy name been poured out, O my Beloved, not 
in vain has it been poured out and spread abroad on 
my breast. Therefore young maidens have loved thee 
exceedingly." Wherefore ? On account of Thy name 
poured out, on account of the breasts perfumed there- 
with. This it is which excites them to the love of the 
Bridegroom. This is the cause of their affection for 
Him. The Spouse receives an infusion of ointment, 
and immediately the " young maidens," who can never 
be found far from their mother, inhale the pleasant 
odour; and, filled with its sweetness, they exclaim, 
" The charity of God is shed abroad in our hearts by 
the Holy Ghost Who is given to us." Consequently 
the Spouse, commending their devotion, says, "This, 
O my Beloved, this is the fruit of the pouring out of 

Thy name, that therefore young maidens have loved 

184 



ON THE DIFFERENT MOTIVES 185 

Thee. They experience the sweetness of Thy name 
only when poured out, not having capacity to contain 
it entire, and hence have they loved Thee. For the 
pouring out makes Thy name capable of being con- 
tained, and irresistibly amiable ; yet only for " young 
maidens." They who are endowed with a greater capa- 
city do not need this pouring out, inasmuch as they 
can relish Thy name undissolved and entire. Such are 
the choiis of angels. 

The simple Angel, the lowest celestial creature,* con- 
templates with undazzled eye the profound abyss of the 
divine judgments. Their sovereign equity ravishes him 
with delight. It is his glory, besides, that they are ex- 
ecuted and promulgated by his own ministry. And 
therefore he has reason to love Christ the Lord. " Are 
they not all ministering spirits," writes St. Paul, " sent 
to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of 

* The number and names of the angelic orders are gathered 
from various parts of the Old and New Testaments. In no 
one place are they all mentioned together. We find reference 
to eight of the nine in the Pauline Epistles (Heb. ix. 5, Rom. 
viii. 38, Colos. i. 16, 1 Cor. xv. 24, Ephes. i. 21, 1 Thess. iv. 15). 
The Pseudo-Dionysius, who flourished probably towards the 
end of the fifth century, is said to have been the first to group 
the choirs in hierarchies, three choirs to each hierarchy, and to 
arrange them in the order of dignity now generally accepted : 
Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Dominations, Virtues, 
Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim. It will be seen that St. 
Bernard's scheme, which is also that of Popes St. Gregory the 
Great and Innocent III., differs somewhat from the Dionysian. 
According to this, next above the Archangels come the Virtues, 
then the Powers, Principalities and Dominations in order. 
In the Prefaces of the Mass only eight choirs are mentioned, 
and in this order : Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominations, 
Powers, Virtues, Cherubim and Seraphim. As to the dis- 
tinction between the choirs, St. Thomas teaches that they differ 
in their natural and supernatural endowments, and consequently 
in the offices to which they are appointed. — (Translator.) 



186 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

salvation " ? As we must attribute to the Archangels 
something more excellent than what belongs to the 
inferior angelic order, I believe that they enjoy the 
high prerogative of being admitted more familiarly to 
the counsels of Eternal Wisdom, and that they are 
commissioned to superintend, with full authority, the 
execution of the same, each in its proper place and 
time, which privileges are to them a source of joy 
ineffable. This is their motive for loving Christ the 
Lord. Then, there are those blessed spirits named 
Virtues, so called, perhaps, for the reason that they 
have been divinely ordained to examine with blissful 
curiosity and to admire the constant and hidden causes 
of signs and wonders, and to employ with power all 
the elements in displaying on earth what prodigies 
they pleas? and when they please. These, too, dis- 
cover in their proper function a special reason for 
loving the " God of Virtues," and for loving Christ 
Who is the " Virtue of God." For they find the fulness 
of delight and felicity in contemplating the " uncertain 
and hidden things of Wisdom " in Wisdom Itself. 
They also find the fulness of honour and glory in the 
consciousness that the operations and effects of the 
causes, concealed in the Divine Word, are exhibited 
by their own agency to the contemplation and 
admiration of the inhabitants of the earth. 

Next in order come the celestial creatures, known 
under the name of Powers. These take particular de- 
light in viewing and magnifying the divine omni- 
potence of the Crucified, which " reach eth from end to 
end mightity." They are invested with power to beat 
off and vanquish all opposing powers, whether human 
or diabolical, in defence of those who have received 



ON THE DIFFERENT MOTIVES 187 

'• the inheritance of salvation." And have they not 
herein most ample cause for loving the Lord Jesus ? 
Immediately above the Powers are the Principalities, 
who, contemplating the Word from a loftier level, 
recognise clearly that He is the First Principle of all 
being, and the " First Begotten of every creature," and 
they are endowed with such dignity and principality, 
that from the apex, so to speak, of the world where 
they sit enthroned, they exercise authority throughout 
the universe, with power to change and regulate king- 
doms, principalities, and dignities of every kind, at 
their sole will and pleasure. They are also empowered 
to make the first last and the last first, according to 
the merits of each, to put down the mighty from their 
seat, and to exalt the humble. And this is the motive 
of their love for Christ. The Dominations also love the 
Lord Jesus. Why ? Because a praiseworthy kind of 
presumption leads them to the discovery of certain in- 
conceivably subtle and sublime truths relating to His 
interminable and irresistible dominion. They marvel to 
see Him everywhere throughout the universe, not only 
by His power, but also by His presence, and com- 
pelling everything, high and low, the revolution of the 
seasons, the motions of bodies, the thoughts and emo- 
tions of created minds, in the most beautiful order, to 
submit to the ruling of His most holy Will. And all this 
He does with so much vigilance that no creature in the 
whole universe can subtract the least jot or tittle, as 
the saying is, from its bounden service ; and yet , with 
such ease, that His universal government never causes 
Him the slightest disquiet or agitation. When, there- 
fore, they, the Dominations, behold the Lord of Sabbath 
judging all things with such tranquillity, they are 



188 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

transported out of themselves by an extraordinary but 
fully conscious stupor of contemplation, infinitely in- 
tense and unspeakably blissful, into the limitless ocean 
of Light Divine. There they seem to withdraw to a 
most secret recess of imperturbable peace, where they 
enjoy such calm and quiet, that, whilst they are in 
repose, all the other celestial creatures appear to unite 
in their service and in defence of their leisure, out of 
reverence for their prerogative, and as for true holders 
of dominion. 

God Himself sits upon the Thrones. :In my opinion, 
this choir has greater reason and more numerous 
motives for loving Christ the Lord than any of those 
already mentioned. If you enter the palace of an 
earthly king, amongst the various seats to be seen 
there, accommodated to various dignities, you will 
notice the royal throne occupying the place of pre- 
eminence. You do not neeed to inquire where the 
monarch is accustomed to sit, for his will be the first 
seat that attracts your attention, being more elevated 
and ornate than any of the others. Understand from 
this that the choir of Thrones surpass all the rest in 
every kind of spiritual adornment, because it is on 
them that, by a special favour of amazing condescension, 
the Divine Majesty has elected to sit. But this sitting 
may be taken to signify the office of teacher. In that 
case, I should suppose that Christ, the Wisdom of the 
Father, Who is our only Master in heaven and on 
earth, although reaching everywhere by reason of His 
purity, yet specially and principally illuminates by His 
presence this hierarchical order, and thence, as from a 
solemn lecture-hall, He" teacheth men knowledge," and 
not only men, but the inferior choirs of angels also. For 



ON THE DIFFERENT MOTIVES 189 

it is thence He communicates to the lowest angelic choir 
the knowledge of His judgments, and to the Archangels 
the understanding of His counsels. It is there the Virtues 
learn what wonders they are to work, at what time, and 
in what place. There, in a word, all the other choirs re- 
ferred to, Powers, Principalities, and Dominations, are 
told their duties and what honours and privileges they 
may claim, as belonging to their rank, but above all, 
they are cautioned, every one of them, that the powers, 
which have been entrusted to them for advancing the 
glory of God, must not be employed for the satisfaction 
of their own wills, or the procuring of their own glory. 
But those heavenly spirits called the Cherubim, if 
they really enjoy the privileges indicated by their 
name, cannot, as I think receive anything either from 
or through the inferior choir of Thrones. For to them 
it is given to drink their fill at the very fountain. The 
Lord Jesus Himself vouchsates to introduce them 
directly into the plenitude of truth, and communi- 
cates + o them most generously the " treasures of wisdom 
and knowledge " concealed in Himself. Neither do 
the Thrones impart any illumination to the Seraphim. 
These are so completely drawn into and absorbed in 
the furnace of God's love, so inflamed with the fire of 
divine charity, that they seem to be but one spirit with 
God ; just as ignited gas (aer) receives from the flames 
which kindle it not only their intense heat, but even 
their colour, and appears to be not so much on fire, 
as to be fire itself. Therefore, of the two last-men- 
tioned choirs, the former find their chief delight in 
admiration of the knowledge of God, " of which th^re 
is no number," the latter in contemplating His charity 
which " never falleth away." Hence, they derive their 



igo ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

respective names irom that particular grace which 
seems to be in each order the characteristic and dis- 
tinguishing endowment. For Cherub signifies "fulness 
of knowledge," whereas Sdaph means " enkindling " or 
" inflamed." Therefore, the Angels love God on account 
of the perfect equity of His judgments ; the Archangels, 
on account of the supreme wisdom of His counsels ; the 
Virtues, by reason of His infinite graciousness, which is 
exhibited in the display of wonders, calculated to bring 
unbelievers to the faith ; the Powers, because of that 
exercise of His divinely-just omnipotence, whereby He 
defends and protects the good from the cruelty of the 
malignant ; the Principalities, on account of that 
eternal and primeval efficacy by which He communi- 
cates being and th^ principle of being to every creature, 
superior or inferioi, spiritual or corporeal, "reaching 
from end to end mightily " ', the Dominations, because 
of the imperturbable tranquillity of His will, where- 
with He rules the universe in the might of His arm, 
and the more mightily in proportion to that native 
gentleness and unruffled calm by which He " disposeth 
all things sweetly " ; the Thrones, for the benevolence 
of His illuminating wisdom, extending itself to all 
without envy, and for the unction of His grace which 
" teach eth of all things"; the Cherubim, b^ause 
" The Lord is a God of all knowledge," Who, knowing 
what is necessary for the salvation of each, distributes 
His gifts as He judges expedient, and with prudence 
and providence, amongst those who rightly pray for 
them ; finally, the Seraphim love Him, because He is 
charity and" hateth none of the things that He hath 
made," willing " all men to be saved and to come to 
the knowledge of truth." 



ON THE DIFFERENT MOTIVES 191 

Thus all the angelic choirs love according to their 
several capacities. But the " young maidens," with 
less understanding, have also less capacity, and are 
altogether unable to attain to things so high, for they 
are but " little ones in Christ," requiring to be fed with 
milk and oil. Hence it is on the breasts of the Spouse 
that they must find the motives of theii love. The 
Spouse possesses the oil poured out , the perfume of which 
arouses in the hearts of the " young maidens " a desire 
to " taste and see how sweet the Lord is." And seeing 
them inflamed with love, she turns to her Beloved, 
and says, "Thy name is as oil poured out, therefore, 
young maidens have loved Thee exceedingly*." What 
is it, my brethren, to love exceedingly ? It is to love 
greatly, passionately, ardently. Oi peihaps in the 
spiritual sense of the words, the Holy Ghost conveys 
an indirect reproof to some amongst you who are be- 
ginners in the religious life, censuring that indiscreet 
zeal, or rather that "exceedingly" obstinate impru- 
dence of theirs, which I have so often in vain endeav- 
oured to repress. To such I say, you are unwilling to 
be content with the common life. Yoa are not satisfied 
with the regular fasts, with the solemn vigils, with the 
ordinary observance of discipline, with the clothes and 
food I provide for you. You prefer what is private 
to what is common. Why do you thus resume charge 
of yourselves after having once and for all committed 
that responsibility to me ? For, lo ! you have again 
taken as your superior, in place of me, that self-will, 
which, as your consciences bear witness, has betrayed 

* "Niniis." St. Bernard gives this word as belonging to 
the text, but it is found in neither the Hebrew, Greek nor 
Latin Version. Cf. A Lapide, Comment, in Cantica, Caput i. 
— (Translator.) 



192 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

you into so many offences against God. By it you are 
taught not to spare nature, not to listen to reason, 
not to follow the counsel or the example of the seniors, 
not to submit to my authoiity. Are you not aware 
that " obedience is better than sacrifice " ? Have you 
not read in your Rule * that whatever is done without 
the sanction and consent of the spiritual father shall be 
attributed to vainglory and shall merit no reward ? 
Have you not read in the Gospel the example of obedi- 
ence set by the Boy Jesus for the imitation of all other 
youths who aspire after holiness ? For when He had 
remained behind in Jerusalem, and declared that it 
was necessary for Him to be about His Father's busi- 
ness, yet, as His parents would not consent to His 
staying longer, He did not disdain to follow them to 
Nazareth, the Master obeying His disciples, God 
obeying man, the Word, the Wisdom of the Father 
obeying a poor artisan and his consort ! Nor is this 
all. The inspired narrative goes on to say, " And He 
was subject to them." 

How long will you be wise in your own conceits ? 
God commits and subjects Himself to mortals, and will 
you still walk in your own ways ? You did indeed 
receive a good spirit, but you have made an ill use of 
the gift. I am now afraid lest that good spirit 
should depart from you and one that is wicked succeed, 
who will strive to deceive you with the outward 
appearance of virtue, so that having begun in the 
Spirit you may end in the flesh. Do you not know 
that the angel of darkness frequently " transf ormeth 
himself into an angel of light " ? God is Wisdom and 

* Holy Rule of St. Benedict, ch. xlix., " On the manner of 
keeping Lent." 



ON THE DIFFERENT MOTIVES 193 

wills us to love Him, not alone sweetly, but wisely as 
well. Hence the Apostle speaks of " your reasonable 
service." Believe me, if you neglect the knowledge 
of truth, the spirit of error will have no trouble in 
misdirecting your zeal. For that cunning enemy can 
find no more efficacious means of expelling the love of 
God from your hearts than by causing you to walk in 
it without caution or reason. Wherefore, I am thinking 
of proposing to you certain canons of conduct which 
those who love God may find it worth their while io 
put in practice. But as to-day's sermon has reached 
its limits, on the morrow, if God continues to give me 
life and leisure for preaching, I will attempt to set them 
forth for your consideration. Then, when our bodies 
are refreshed by the repose of the night, and (what 
is more important) our minds duly reinvigorated by 
the tonic of prayer, we shall come again together for 
the discourse on divine love, through the favour of 
Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom everlasting honour 
and glory. Amen. 



1. N 



SERMON XX 

On the various Degrees and Characteristics of 
. the Love of Christ. 

" Therefore young maidens have loved Thee exceedingly." 

I will begin, my brethren, with the words of our 
master, St. Paul : " If any man love not our Lord 
Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." Surely, He is 
most deserving of my love, from Whom I have exist- 
ence, life, and understanding. If I be ungrateful for 
these benefits, I thereby prove myself unworthy of 
them. Evidently, he is unworthy to live at all, who- 
ever, O Lord Jesus, refuses to live for Thee. Yea, he 
is already dead ! And whoso has no understanding of 
Thee, is only a fool. And he that desires to exist save 
only for Thee, is to be esteemed as nothing, for nothing 
he is indeed. But " what is man " apart from the fact * 
" that Thou art made known to him " ? Thou, O 
God, hast made all things for Thyself. Hence he must 
be nothing, as outside this universality of being, who 
wants to exist for himself and not for Thee. " Fear 
God and keep His commandments," says Solomon, 
" for this is all man." But if this is all man, it clearly 
follows that, without it, all man is nothing. Bend to 
Thyself, O my God, the insignificant little thing which 

* That is to say, the only thing of value in man is his knowl- 
edge of God. There is question, of course, of supernatural 
knowledge, of the faith that worketh by charity. In the same 
sense it is said in Ecclesiastes, " Fear God and keep His com- 
mandments, for this is all man." — (Translator.) 

194 



ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST 195 

Thou hast condescended to will I should be. Accept, 
I beseech Thee, the years that remain of my miserable 
life ; and for those which I have squandered away by 
evil living, " a contrite and humble heart, O God, 
Thou wilt not despise." " My days have declined 
like a shadow," and have passed without fruit. But 
as it is impossible now to recall them, let it content 
Thee, in Thy gracious mercy, that I recount them to 
Thee " in the bitterness of my soul." Then, as regards 
understanding, " before Thee is all my desire," and the 
intention of my heart. Thou seest that if I possessed 
any wisdom I would consecrate it to Thee. But, O God, 
" Thou knowest my foolishness." Still, perhaps it is 
some wisdom even to acknowledge my foolishness, as I 
do in truth by Thy grace. Multiply, O Lord, that grace 
in me, since I am not ungrateful for the little I already 
possess, but only anxious for that which is still want- 
ing to me. Therefore, in return for the benefits of 
existence, life, and understanding, I offer Thee all the 
love I am capable of. 

But there is another incentive to love which has 
still greater power to move, and to arouse, and to 
inflame me. What makes Thee, O good Jesus, amiable 
to me above all things is the chalice Thou didst drain 
for us, the work of our Redemption. This easily at- 
tracts to Thee all the love of our hearts. This it is, 
I say, which most sweetly allures our affectionate de- 
votion, most justly exacts it, most forcibly constrains 
it, and most powerfully binds it to Thine own Divine 
Self. For therein the Saviour had to undergo im- 
mense labour. As Creator, the making of the whole 
universe did not cost Him the slightest effort. Of that 
rrrghty work we read " He spoke and they were 



i 9 6 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

made ; He commanded and they were created." But 
in order to redeem us, it was necessary for Him to 
endure contradiction to His words, criticism of His 
actions, mockery in His sufferings, reproaches at His 
death. Behold, my brethren, how He loved us ! Re- 
member, too, that in this He was not making any 
return, but only a further advance of love. For " who 
hath first given to Him, and recompense shall be made 
to him ? " Rather as St. John Evangelist says, "Not 
as though we had loved God, but because He hath 
first loved us." Finally, He loved us even before we ex- 
isted, and, what is more, loved us when we resisted 
His love. Such is the testimony of St. Paul, where he 
says, " when we were as yet enemies we were recon- 
ciled to God by the death of His Son." For otherwise, 
unless He loved us when we were His enemies, He 
never could have loved us as His friends ; just as we 
should not have existed at all to be the objects of His 
love had His love not embraced us when as yet we 
were non-existent.* 

His love for us is sweetly tender, and wise, and 
strong. It showed itself tender, I say, in that it in- 
duced Him to assume our flesh. Its wisdom appeared 
in His refusing to resemble us in sin. It manifested 
its strength by leading Him to die for us. Although 
visiting us in the flesh, He did not love us according 
to the flesh, but in the prudence of the Spirit. For 
" Christ the Lord is a Spirit before our face," jealous 
of us " with the jealousy of God," not, mind you, with 
the jealousy of man, but " with the jealousy of God," a 

* In other words, we owe our Creation as well as our Redemp- 
tion and Justification to God's antecedent and gratuitous love 
for us. — (Translator.) 



ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST 197 

jealousy, therefore, wiser than that which the first 
Adam entertained with regard to the first Eve. Conse- 
quently, those whom He sought in the flesh, He loved 
in the Spirit, and redeemed in His power. It is assuredly 
a privilege full of divine sweetness, of inexpressible de- 
light, that man should be permitted to see his Maker 
in the flesh. But whilst, with divine prudence, He 
chose for Himself a nature immune from guilt, He also 
with power equally divine, expelled death from that 
nature. In assuming flesh He condescended to my 
infirmity ; in avoiding sin He looked to the interests 
of His own glory ; in submitting to death, He made 
satisfaction to His Father's justice, thus exhibiting 
Himself as a sweet Friend, a prudent Counsellor, a 
powerful Helper. Securely may I entrust myself to 
Him, Who has the good will to save me, and the knowl- 
edge of the means to be employed, and the power to 
put them into execution. After seeking me out, after 
calling me to Him, think you He will cast me forth 
now when I am answering His summons ? Neither do 
I fear that any force or fraud whatever shall be able 
to snatch me out of His hand, for He is the Conqueror 
of death which had conquered all beside, and, by a 
holier craft than Satan used, the Circumvent or of that 
old serpent who circumvented the whole world, surpass- 
ing the former in powei and the latter in wisdom. He 
took on Him indeed the reality of our flesh, but only the 
similitude of our sin, thus, at the same time, sweetly 
bringing consolation to the weak, and prudently laying 
the snare of deception for the demon. 

Moreover, in order to reconcile us to the Father, He 
underwent and vanquished death by the might of 
His fortitude, shedding His Blood as the price of our 



i 9 8 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Redemption. Hence, to sum up, had He not loved me 
with tender affection, that Divine Majesty would never 
have sought me in my prison. But to tenderness of 
love He united wisdom, whereby He deceived the 
serpent, and to both He added patience, by which He 
appeased the anger of His offended Father. Such, my 
brethren, are the characteristics of divine love, which I 
am under promise to explain, viz., to love with tender- 
ness, with prudence, and with strength. And the better 
to commend them to your observance, I have begun by 
drawing your attention to them as they are exhibited 
in the charity of Christ. 

O Christians, learn from Christ how you ought to 
love Christ. Learn to love Him with a love that is 
tender, and prudent, and strong. Unless your love of 
the Lord is tender, you may renounce it under the 
seductive influence of counter-attractions ; unless pru- 
dent, you may be misled, and lose it through fraud ; 
unless strong, it will yield to violence. If you wish to 
avoid being seduced and alienated from Christ, by the 
glory of this world and the delights of the flesh, you 
must find in Him Who is the Wisdom ot the Father, a 
relish more alluringly sweet than either of these. If 
you would not be led astray by the spirit of deceit 
and error, Christ, Who is truth, must enlighten your 
minds. And lest you sink and faint under adversity, 
the same Christ, Who is the Power of God, must 
strengthen and support you. Let your zeal borrow 
fervour from charity, light from knowledge, strength 
from constancy. Let it be ardent, let it be prudent, 
let it be unconquerable. Let it be equally free from 
sloth, from temerity, and from timidity. And consider 
now, if these qualities of love, namely, tenderness, 



ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST 199 

prudence and constancy, be not prescribed in the Law, 
where God gives the command, " Thou shalt love the 
Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole 
soul, and with all thy strength." It appears to me 
(although perhaps some of you can discover a more 
reasonable explanation of this threefold distinction) 
that love of the heart refers to ardour or tenderness in 
our affection, and love of the soul to the activity or 
judgment of our reason ; whilst love of our strength 
may possibly relate to constancy or vigour of mind. 
Therefore, love the Lord with the full and entire affec- 
tion of your hearts, that is to say, tenderly ; love Him 
with all the vigilance and circumspection of your under- 
standing, and so prudently ; love Him with your whole 
strength, so that you may be ready even to give your 
lives for His love. Thus we read in a subsequent verse 
of this Canticle, " for love is strong as death, jealousy 
as hard as hell." My brethren, let the Lord Jesus be 
sweet and agreeable to your affections, in order that 
He may serve you as a counter charm against the dan- 
gerously attractive delights of the flesh. Let sweetness 
be overcome by sweetness, as one nail drives out another. 
But Jesus must also be the guiding Light of your in- 
tellects and the Director of your minds, not only that 
you may avoid the contemptible frauds * of heretical 
deception, and preserve the purity of your faith from 
its cunning impostures, but also to enable you to walk 
with caution, guarding yourselves against indiscreet and 
excessive zeal in your conversation. And your love of 
Him ought, moreover, to possess strength and con- 
stancy, neither yielding to fears nor fainting under 

* The Henrician and other heiesies of St. Bernard's time 
were but a recrudescence of Manicheism. — (Translator.) 



200 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

labours. Let us, therefore, love Jesus tenderly, wisely, 
and strongly, as knowing that the love of the heart, 
which I describe as tender, is sweet indeed, but liable 
to seduction if unaccompanied by what I call the love 
of the soul ; just as this, without the love of strength, 
is prudent certainly, but lacking in vigour. 

I will prove to you by evident examples the truth of 
what I have been saying. When the disciples were 
grieving at the thought of losing their Master, Who 
had been speaking to them of His Ascension, He said, 
" If you love Me you would rejoice because I go 
to the Father." What ! Is it meant that they had 
no love for Him Whose departure they so bemoaned ? 
No, my brethren, but they loved Him in one way, 
and in another they did not love Him. I mean, they 
loved Him tenderly, but not prudently. They loved 
Him according to the flesh, not according to reason. 
They loved Him with their whole hearts, yet not with 
their whole souls. Such love was an obstacle to their 
perfection. Hence He told them, " It is expedient for 
you that I go," whereby He censured, not the tender- 
ness, but the imprudence of their affection. On another 
occasion, when He was speaking of His approaching 
death, and Peter, out of love, attempted to hold Him 
back and was making opposition to His purpose, in the 
reproof, wherewith, as you remember, He checked the 
Apostle, what else did He condemn but his imprudence ? 
For what means the expression, " Thou savourest 
not the things that are of God," except this, " thou 
lovest not wisely, following human affection to the dis- 
regard of the divine counsel " ? And He called Peter 

* The word Satan in the Hebrew means an adversary. — 
(Translator.) 



ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST 201 

Satan, because like an adversary,* albeit unwittingly, 
he was placing obstacles in the way of his own and our 
salvation, by trying to hinder the Saviour's death. 
Hence, after this correction, when Christ was again 
making allusion to the same sad subject of His Passion, 
the disciple no longer raised any objection, but rather 
promised to die with Him. But the promise was not 
fulfilled, because he had not yet attained to that 
third degree of charity in which we love with our whole 
strength. He had been taught to love with his whole 
soul, but his love was still weak. He had received 
light enough to know his duty but not, as yet, enough 
spiritual strength to act up to his knowledge. He was 
not so much in ignorance of the mystery of Redemption 
as in terror of the pains of martyrdom. Manifestly, that 
love was not " strong as death," which yielded to the 
fear of death. But it became so afterwards, when 
Peter, fortified with virtue from above, according to 
the promise of Jesus Christ, began to love with so 
much strength, that, when forbidden by the Jewish 
Council to preach the holy name, he boldly replied, 
" we ought to obey God rather than men." Then in 
truth he loved with all his strength, when he was willing 
to sacrifice even his life for his love, since " greater 
love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his 
life for his friends." For although he did not then 
actually lay down his life, he at least exposed it to 
imminent danger. Therefore, to love with one's whole 
heart, with one's whole soul, and with all one's strength, 
is to love with a love that can neither be seduced by 
pleasure, nor deceived by error, nor overpowered by 
the violence of any persecution. 
And take notice that the love of the heart is, in 



202 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

some sense, carnal, because it tends to turn the hearts 
of men towards the Flesh of Christ, and towards His 
example and precepts, given in the flesh. One that is 
filled with this love is easily affected by every dis- 
course on such subjects. There is nothing he more 
willingly hears, more attentively reads, more frequently 
calls to mind, more affectionately ponders. With this 
love, as with the fat of the " fatted calf," he enriches his 
holocausts of prayer. He has before his mind, as he 
prays, the sacred image of the God- Man, in the manger, 
or on His mother's breast, or teaching, or dying, or 
, rising from the tomb, or ascending into heaven. Every 
such representation must necessarily urge his soul to 
the love of virtue, or help to repress the carnal passions, 
put temptations to flight, and extinguish evil desires. 
To my thinking, this appears to have been one of the 
main reasons why the invisible God willed to appear 
in visible flesh, and as Man to converse amongst men, 
that, namely, He might draw all the affections of carnal 
men, who knew how to love only in a carnal manner, 
first to a salutary love of His own Flesh, and thence 
lead them gradually to a more spiritual love of His 
Divinity.* Was not the former the degree of charity 
in which they still stood, who said, " Behold we have 
left all things and followed Thee " ? Surely we must 
admit that it was the love of Christ's sensible presence 
alone that had led them to leave all things, since they 
could not listen patiently to a single word about His 
saving Passion and death before the events, nor after- 

* Similar to this is what we find in St. Gregory the Great, 
homilia n in Evangelia: "The kingdom of heaven is likened 
to earthly objects in order that the soul may be led by means 
of familiar and sensible things to the knowledge and the love 
of things spiritual and invisible." — (Translator.) 



ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST 203 

wards witness even the glory of His Ascension without 
oppressive sorrow. This is what He Himself meant 
when He said, " Because I have spoken these things 
to you, sorrow hath filled your heart." Thu?, it was as 
yet only by the power and the grace of His own presence 
in the flesh that He had withdrawn them from all 
other love according to the flesh. 

Afterwards, however, He pointed out to them a more 
excellent degree of charity in the words : " It is the spirit 
that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing." That 
degree, as I think, had already been reached by St. 
Paul, when he wrote, " And if we have known Christ 
according to the flesh ; but now we know Him so no 
longer." Perhaps the Prophet Jeremias also stood in 
the same degree, who said, " A Spirit before our face 
is Christ the Lord." For the words added, " under Thy 
shadow we shall live amongst the Gentiles," he seems 
to me to have spoken in the person of beginners, sig- 
nifying that they who did not yet feel strong enough 
to bear the heat of the sun, should at least find rest 
in the shadow. In other words, that they should 
nourish themselves with the sweetness of the Flesh 
who are not able as yet to perceive " the things 
that are of the Spirit of God." The shadow of Christ, 
I take it, is that Flesh of His which overshadowed even 
His mother, and by its opacity, as by a veil interposed, 
tempered for her the burning heat and dazzling splen- 
dour of the Spirit. Therefore, in this love of the Flesh 
let him find, meantime, his consolation who has not 
yet received the vivifying Spirit, at least in that way 
in which He was possessed by those who said, " A 
Spirit before our face is Christ the Lord," and "if we have 
known Christ according to the flesh, but now we know 



204 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Him so no longer." For it is quite certain that only 
in the Holy Ghost can Christ be loved at all, even ac- 
cording to the flesh, and even with a love less full than 
the love of the whole heart. Nevertheless, the whole 
capacity of our hearts ought to be the only measure of 
this carnal love, whose sweetness should fill them' to 
overflowing, and so wean them away from the love of 
all other flesh and of the delights of the flesh. For it 
is thus only that we love with our whole hearts. Other- 
wise, by preferring any connexions or gratifications of 
my own flesh to the Flesh of my Lord, and thus failing 
in the perfect observance of those things which He, 
whilst still in the flesh, taught me by word and example, 
I make it clearly manifest that I do not love Him with 
my whole heart. For my heart being divided, I appear 
to be giving one part of it to the love of His Flesh, and 
appropriating the other to the love of my own. Yet 
He has said, " He that loveth father or mother more 
than Me is not worthy of Me ; and he that loveth son 
or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." In 
short, therefore, to love Him with our whole hearts is 
to prefer to all carnal satisfactions, whatever and 
whencesoever they may be, the love of His most holy 
Flesh. And with carnal gratifications I include also 
worldly glory, both because the glory of the world is 
the glory of the flesh, and because those who take 
delight in such glory are, without any doubt, carnally 
minded. 

This devotion to Christ's sacred Flesh is, conse- 
quently, a gift, and a great gift, of the Holy Spirit. 
Nevertheless, I have called it carnal in comparison 
with that love which has for object not so much the 
Flesh of the Word as the Word under the aspect of 



ON THE LOVE OF CHRIST 205 

Wisdom, of Justice, of Truth, of Sanctity, of Piety, of 
Power, and of the various other Divine Attributes. 
For Christ rather is than has all these Perfections, 
" Who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Justice, and 
Sanctification, and Redemption. " Now, do you think, 
my brethren, that these two persons are equally and 
similarly affected towards Him — he who lovingly com- 
passionates the sufferings of Christ, who is easily moved 
to compunction and other such emotions at the thought 
of all He endured for us, who feeds his soul with the 
sweetness of this devotion, and thence derives energy for 
every salutary, good, and pious exercise ; and he who is 
always inflamed with the zeal for justice, who is every- 
where jealous of the interests of truth, who is eager in 
the pursuit of wisdom, loves sanctity of life and probity 
of morals, who proclaims by his conduct his dislike of 
boasting, his horror of detraction, his ignorance of envy, 
his detestation of pride, his, not only aversion, but even 
scorn and contempt for vainglory, his utter hatred and 
intolerance of all manner of uncleanness in himself, 
and, in a word, his almost natural and instinctive ab- 
horrence of all that is evil and delight in aJl that is 
good ? Comparing together these kinds of love, does 
it not appear evident to you that, in relation to the 
latter, the former is at least in some sense carnal ? 

A good thing, however, is this carnal love of Christ, 
enabling us, as it does, to live, not a carnal, but a 
spiritual life, and to conquer and contemn the world. 
As it progresses it wiD become rational, and will have 
reached its perfection when it changes to spiritual. 
Love is then rational when, as regards all points of 
Christian doctrine, it clings with such tenacity to the 
orthodox faith, that by no counterfeits of truth, by 



206 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

no heretical or rather diabolical circumvention can it 
be seduced in the least from the purity of Catholic 
teaching ; and when, in private life, it is so observant 
ol caution as never to transgress the limits of modera- 
tion by any extravagance, levity, or the impetuosity 
of an excessively ardent spirit. This is, as I have 
already said, loving God with one's whole sou]. Should 
there be added to our love such vigour from the sup- 
porting Spirit that no difficulties, no toiments, no 
terrors of death shall avail to turn us aside from 
the paths of justice, then we shall love With all our 
" strength," and our love will be spiritual. For the 
epithet spiritual belongs especially to this love, on 
account of the fulness of the Spirit which is its pre- 
rogative and its distinguishing excellence. 

So much must suffice on the words of the Spouse, 
" Therefore, young maidens have loved Thee exceed- 
ingly." With regard to what follows, may the treasures 
of divine mercy be graciously opened to us, by Him 
Who is their Custodian, Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who 
liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy 
Ghost , one God for endless ages. Amen. 



SERMON XXI 

In what manner the Spouse, that is the Church, 
desires to be drawn to her beloved. 

" Draw me ; we will run after Thee to the odour of Thy ointments." 

" Draw me; we will run after Thee to the odour of 

Thy ointments. " What ? Has the Spouse need to 

be drawn ? — need to be drawn after her Beloved ? 

As if, forsooth, she followed Him reluctantly, and not 

rather most eagerly ! But not everyone that is drawn, 

is drawn unwillingly. The weak and the ailing, unable 

of themselves to go to the bath or the banquet, are 

not displeased at being drawn thither ; although, on 

the other hand, it is doubtless against their will that 

malefactors are drawn to judgment and punishment. 

Further, it is evident the Spouse desires to be drawn, 

since she prays for this. But she would not make 

such a petition, if, of herself, she were able to follow 

her Beloved as she wished. But why has she not this 

power ? Are we to say that even the Spouse is infirm ? 

Had one of the " young maidens " confessed herself 

weak and begged to be drawn, we should not have felt 

any surprise. But who does not find it hard to believe 

that the Spouse herself, as if sick and feeble, has really 

need of being drawn, whereas she seemed to be strong 

and perfect enough to be able to draw others ? What 

certainty can we have now of the health and strength 

of any soul, if we admit infirmity even in her, who, 

by reason of her singular perfection and more excellent 

207 



208 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

virtue, is honoured with the name of Spouse of Christ ? 
But, perhaps, the Church spoke thus when she beheld 
her Beloved ascending into heaven, expressing in those 
words her ardent desire to follow and to be assumed 
with Him to glory ? And yet every soul, without ex- 
ception, to whatever perfection she may have attained, 
so long as she groans in the " body of this death," and 
is kept confined in the prison of this wicked world, 
burthened with infirmities, tortured with the memory 
of her sins — every soul, I say, has to submit to the 
necessity of mounting to the contemplation of things 
divine by ascents too slow and gradual for the eager- 
ness of her desires. For she does not as yet enjoy the 
liberty of following the Bridegroom " whithersoever He 
goeth." Hence that tearful cry of lamentation, " Un- 
happy man that I am, who will deliver me from the 
body of this death ? " Hence, too, that suppliant 
prayer, " Bring my soul out of prison." Therefore, let 
the Spouse also say with tears, " Draw me after Thee," 
because " the corruptible body is a load upon the soul, 
and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind 
that museth upon many things." Or, it may be, these 
are the words in which the Church gives expression to 
her desire "to be dissolved and to be with Christ." 
Especially, as she observes, that they, for whose sake 
it seemed necessary that she should still abide in the 
flesh, are now progressing favourably in the love of 
the Bridegroom, and are firmly rooted and grounded in 
charity. It was to call attention to this, that she pre- 
mised the words, " Therefore, young maidens have loved 
Thee." In this sense, then, she seems to say, " Behold 
the young maidens have loved Thee, and in love are 
securely united to Thee, and hence, have no longer any 



SPOUSE DESIRES TO BE DRAWN 209 

need of me. And as there is now no reason for pro- 
longing my sojourn on earth, draw me after Thee." 

This latter I should take to be her meaning, had her 
prayer been, "Draw me to Thee." But because she 
says " after Thee," I am more inclined to think her 
request is that she may be given the strength to follow 
the footprints of His, the Bridegroom's, example, and 
the grace which would enable her to be emulous of His 
virtues, to direct herself by the rule of His life, and to 
conform her own to His divine character and disposi- 
tion. For in this she is especially in want of assist- 
ance, in order that she may be able to deny herself, 
and to take up her cross and so follow Christ. Herein 
the Spouse has certainly need to be drawn, and to be 
drawn by none else than by Him Who said, " Without 
Me you can do nothing." " I know," she seems to 
avow, " I know that I can by no means attain to Thee, 
except by walking in Thy footsteps. But even this I 
am unable to do without Thy help. Therefore, I beg 
that Thou wouldst draw me after Thee. For ' blessed 
is the man whose help is from Thee ; in his heart he 
hath disposed to ascend by steps in the vale of tears,' 
and is destined, sooner or later, to come to Thee on 
the mountains of unending bliss." How few are they, O 
Lord Jesus, who desire to follow Thee ! And yet there 
is none without the wish to attain to Thy presence, 
since everyone knows that " at Thy Right Hand 
are delights, even unto the end." Hence it is that 
all yearn to enjoy Thee, though not all are willing to 
imitate Thy example. All long for a share in Thy 
kingdom,* but all are not desirous to participate in 

* " Jesus has now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but 
few are willing to bear His cross ; Pie has many that are desirous 
1, o 



210 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Thy cross. Such, for instance, was Balaam, who prayed, 
" Let my soul die the death of the just, and my last 
end be like to them." He wished to resemble the just 
in their end, but not in their beginnings. So, too, 
carnal men, who abhor the spiritual life, still would 
like to die like spiritual persons, knowing how "precious 
in the sight of the Lord is the death ot His saints." 
For " when He shall give sleep to His beloved, behold 
the inheritance of the Lord ! " And again, " Blessed 
are the dead who die in the Lord." On the other 
hand, according to the Psalmist, " The death of the 
wicked is very evil." They are at no pains to seek 
Him Whom they would be glad enough to find. They 
would wish to overtake without the labour of pur- 
suing. Not so those to whom the Lord said, " And 
you are they who have continued with Me in My temp- 
tations." O sweetest Jesus, happy are they who are 
accounted worthy of such testimony from Thy divine 
Lips ! They in truth followed after Thee, both with 
their feet and with their affections. Thou didst make 
known to them the ways of life, calling them after 
Thee Who art the Way and the Life. And Thou didst 
say, " Come ye after Me, and I will make you to be 
fishers of men." Also, " If any man minister to Me, 
let him follow Me, and where I am, there also shall 
My minister be." Therefore they could say, as it 
were, glorying, " Behold, we have left all things, and 
have followed Thee." 

In the same way, then, Thy beloved Spouse, having 
left all things for Thee, desires to be ever led by Thee, 

of comfort, few of tribulation. All desire to rejoice with Him, 
few to suffer with Him " (Imitation oj Christ, Bk. II. ch. ad.). — 
(Translator.) 



SPOUSE DESIRES TO BE DRAWN 211 

to be ever walking in Thy footsteps, and to follow Thee 
whithersoever Thou goest. For she knows well that 
" Thy ways are beautiful ways, and all Thy paths peace- 
ful," and that whoso follows Thee " walketh not in dark- 
ness." But she asks to be drawn, because " Thy justice 
is like the mountains of God," for climbing which her 
own strength is not sufficient. She prays to be drawn, 
as being aware that " no one cometh " to Thee unless 
Thy " Father shall draw him." But whomsoever Thy 
Father draweth, these Thou Thyself dost also draw ; 
" For the works which the Father doth, these the Son 
also doth in like manner." And she more boldly begs 
to be drawn by the Son, as by her own Bridegroom, 
sent by the Father to meet her on the road, as a Guide 
and Director, Who should walk before her in the way 
of moral discipline, should smooth for her the path of 
virtue, " instruct her as Himself," and give her " a 
law of life and instruction," and all to the end that 
" the King might desire her beauty." 

" Draw me after Thee ; we will run to the odour of 
Thy ointments." Therefore do I require to be drawn, 
because the fire of Thy love has grown cold within 
us, and " before the face of cold " like this we cannot 
run now, as we did yesterday and the day before. 
But we shall run again hereafter, when Thou shalt 
restore to us " the joy of Thy salvation " ; when the 
happy season of grace shall return, when the Sun of 
Justice shall again grow warm and drive away the 
clouds of temptation which, for the time being, seem 
to overcast and to hide from us His Face ; when at 
every gentlest stirring of the more balmy summer air 
the ointments shall begin to liquify, and the aromatic 
spices to flow and to give out their fragrant odour. Then 



212 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

shall we run, we shall run to that odour. We shall 
run, I say, to the perfume of the ointments, because 
our present torpor shall have vanished, giving place 
to devotion, so that we shall no longer require to be 
drawn ; for under the attraction of the odour, we shall 
run forward of ourselves. But meantime " draw me 
after Thee ; we will run to the odour of Thy ointments. ,, 
Do you not see, my brethren, that he who walks in the 
Spirit cannot possibly remain always in the same state, 
nor always advance with the same facility, and that 
the way of man is not in his own power, but accord- 
ing as the Spirit, Who remains Master of His graces, 
is pleased to dispense them with varying degrees of 
generosity, the soul, at one time more sluggishly, at 
another with greater alacrity, "forgetting the things 
that aie behind stretcheth (herself) forth to those that 
are before" ? I believe that what you now hear me 
speaking of exteriorly, you may learn interiorly from 
the testimony of your conscience. 

Therefore, when you perceive yourselves to be affected 
with languor, sloth, or disgust, do not on that account 
lose confidence or desist from your application to 
spiritual things. Rather seek for the supporting hand 
of the Spirit (after the example of the Spouse) begging 
Him to draw you, until, aroused by grace from the 
state of torpor, and rendered more alert and active, 
you will commence to run again, and to say, " I have 
run in the way of Thy commandments, when Thou 
didst enlarge my heart." Yet, when grace is present, 
enjoy it in such a way as not to lancy you possess it 
by hereditary right.* I mean to say, do not be so 

* " Therefore, when God gives spiritual consolation, receive 
it with thanksgiving ; but know that it is the bounty of God, not 



SPOUSE DESIRES TO BE DRAWN 213 

secure of it as if it could never be taken from you. 
Otherwise, when God withdraws His hand and de- 
prives you of His gift, you will suddenly lose heart 
and become unduly depressed and discouraged. Do 
not say in thy " abundance, I shall never be moved," 
lest you be compelled with tears to say also what 
follows, " Thou didst turn away Thy Face and I became 
troubled." Rather be careful, according to the advice 
of the Wise Man, " In the day of good things to be 
not unmindful of evils, and in the day of evils, to be 
not unmindful of good things." 

Be not, consequently, too secure in the day of thy 
strength, but, with the Prophet, cry out to God, " When 
my strength shall fail me, do not forsake me." And 
similarly take comfort in the time of temptation, saying 
with the Spouse, " Draw me after Thee ; we will run 
to the odour of Thy ointments." Thus you shall not 
lose hope in the evil day, nor foresight in the good. 
Amidst the prosperities and adversities of this changeful 
existence, you will exhibit in yourselves an image, so to 
speak, of the changeless eternity, by this unalterable and 
imperturbable equanimity of a constant soul, " blessing 
the Lord at all times," and despite the uncertain events 
and the certain failures of this mutable life, gradually 
bringing yourselves to a condition of what I may call 
fixed and stable immutability ; whilst you are, at the 
same time, beginning to renew and restore in your- 

thy merit . . . When comfort shall be taken away from thee, 
do not presently despair. . . . One said at the time when grace 
was with him, ' In my abundance I said I shall never be moved ' ; 
but when grace was retired, he tells us what he experienced in 
himself,' Thou hast turned away Thy face from me and I became 
troubled ' " (Imitation, Bk. II. ch. ix.; cf. alsoBk. III. ch. vii.). — 
(Translator.) 



214 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

selves that primordial and glorious likeness to the 
Eternal God, " in Whom there is no change, nor 
shadow of vicissitude." For as He is in His eternity 
so will you be even in this world, invincibly 
equable, neither cast down in adversity nor elated 
in prosperity. Herein, I ray, the noble rational crea- 
ture, made to the image and likeness of his Creator, 
shows that he is retrieving and recovering the dignity 
of his ancient honour, in that he judges it unworthy 
of him to be conformed to the fashions of this 
fleeting world, and rather strives, according to the 
injunction of St. Paul, to be reformed in the newness 
of his mind, unto that image, in which, as he knows, 
he was created. And thus, as is proper, he will force 
the world, which was made for his sake, by a mar- 
vellous reversal of relations, to accommodate itself to 
him. For having put off the form of corruption and 
reassumed that which is proper and natural to him, 
" all things shall now begin to co-operate unto good for 
him" in whom they shall recognise, as it were, their 
lord for whose service and enjoyment they were created. 
Hence, I believe that what the Only-Begotten said 
of Himself, viz., that if He were "lifted up from the 
earth," He would " draw all things "to Himself, can 
be applied equally well to all His brethren, to those, 
namely, whom the Father "foreknew and predestined to 
be made conformable to the image of His Son that He 
might be the First- Begotten amongst many brethren." 
Therefore, even I shall make bold to say, that " I, if I 
be lifted from the earth, will draw all things to myself." 
Do not suppose, my brethren, that I act rashly in appro- 
priating to myself the words of One Whose likeness I 
have put on. And since this is so, let not the rich of this 



SPOUSE DESIRES TO BE DRAWN 215 

world imagine that the brethren of Christ possess only 
the goods of heaven, because they hear the Master 
saying, " Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is 
the kingdom of heaven." Let it not be thought, I 
repeat, that heavenly treasures alone are held by these 
poor, because only such are mentioned in the promise. 
Earthly things, too, are possessed by them, who, " as 
having nothing, possess all things." They do not beg 
for such, as the involuntarily poor, but they own 
them as lords, and the more truly lords of them 
the less they desire them. In fact, the whole 
world, is the treasure of the faithful soul. The 
whole world I say, because both its goods and its 
evils are equally her servants and co-operate for her 
unto good. 

The avaricious man, like the beggar, hungers for the 
riches of earth ; but the spiritual man, as their lord, de- 
spises them. The former has to beg for them whilst pos- 
sessing them ; the latter by despising them, preserves 
them. Ask one of those who, " with insatiable heart," 
yearn after temporal lucre, what he thinks of such as 
sell what they have, and give to the poor, bartering 
earthly possessions for the kingdom of heaven. Ask 
him whether or not they do wisely. " Wisely, indeed," 
he will doubtless answer. But ask why he does not 
himself do that which he approves : " I cannot," will 
be his answer. Why ? Because his mistress, avarice, will 
not suffer him. Because he is not free. Because those 
things which he appears to possess are not really his own. 
Because he is not even his own master. Thensay to him : 
If it be thine own, put thy money out at interest, and 
transform earthly into heavenly treasures. If thou 
canst not do this, then acknowledge that thou art less 



216 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the master than the slave of thy riches, less the owner 
than the custodian. Thou art even conformed to thy 
purse as a slave to his mistress; because, just as the 
slave must rejoice or grieve with his rejoicing or griev- 
ing mistress, so dost thou in thy soul swell with elation 
or shrink under depression, in haimony with the varying 
bulk of thy money-bags. For thou dost contract with 
grief according as these contract with expenditure ; 
and art rilled with joy or, at any rate, inflated with 
pride, in proportion as they are replenished with profits. 
Such is the life of him who makes himself a slave to 
avarice. But let us, for our part, endeavour rather to 
emulate the freedom and constancy of the Spouse, who, 
instructed in all things, " and learned in heart in 
wisdom," knows how to abound and how to suffer 
want. When she asks to be drawn, she shows that 
what is wanting to her is not money but virtue. Again, 
in consoling herself with the hope of a return of giace, 
she proves that, though fainting, she has not lost 
confidence. 

She says, therefore, " Draw me after Thee ; we will 
run to the odour of Thy ointments." And what wonder 
that she requires to be drawn, whilst she runs after a 
Giant, whilst she is trying to overtake Him Who " leaps 
in the mountains, Who leaps over the hills " ? " His 
Word," says the Psalmist, "runneth swiftly." She is 
not able to keep up with Him ; she cannot keep pace 
with One Who " exult eth as a giant to run His course." 
That is to say, she cannot do this of her own strength, 
and hence she request? to be drawn. " I am tired, 
she seems to say, " I am fainting from fatigue. Do 
not abandon me, but draw me after Thee, lest I begin 
to ' wander after other lovers ' and ' run as at an uncer- 



SPOUSE DESIRES TO BE DRAWN 217 

tainty.' Draw me after Thee, since it is better for 
me that Thou shouldst draw me, even forcibly, either 
by terrifying me with threats or chastising me with 
scourges, than, by sparing me, permit me to enjoy a 
dangerous security in my sloth. Draw me, even against 
my will, that I may be made willing. Draw me, even 
in my sluggishness, that I may learn how to run of 
myself. The time will come when I shall no longer 
need to be drawn, for we shall run willingly and with 
all alacrity. I shall not run alone, although alone I 
ask Thee to draw me. With me shall run the young 
maidens. We shall run side by side. We shall run 
together ; I to the odour of Thy ointments, they as 
being stimulated by my example and encouraged by my 
exhortation. And so we shall all run to the odour of Thy 
ointments." The Spouse has imitators of herself, just 
as she is an imitator of Christ. Hence she does not 
say, " I shall run," but " we shall run." 

But the question here arises, when she prays to be 
drawn, why does she not likewise include the " young 
maidens " in her petition, and say, " draw us," instead 
of " draw me"? Or are we to suppose that, whereas 
the Spouse has need to be drawn, the " young maidens " 
labour under no such necessity? O Bride of Christ, 
beautiful, blessed, and blissful, explain to us the mean- 
ing of this distinction. " Draw me," thou implorest. 
But why " me " rather than " us " ? Is it that thou 
dost envy us, the " young maidens," so great a grace ? 
God forbid ! For hadst thou desired to follow thy 
Beloved alone, thou wouldst not have immediately 
added that the " young maidens " would run with 
thee. Why, then, dost thou ask to be drawn in the 
singular, and straightway, speaking in the plural, say 



218 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

" we will run " ? " Charity," she answers, " so requires. 
Learn from me by these words that in your spiritual 
exercises you must hope for a twofold heavenly grace, 
viz., correction and consolation.* The former is ex- 
teriorly administered, the latter visits you interiorly. 
The one restrains your boldness, the other props up 
your hope. Correction engenders humility, consolation 
supports pusillanimity. By the first you are made 
cautious, by the second devout. The one teaches you 
the fear of the Lord, the other tempers that fear by 
an infusion of spiritual delight, as it is written, ' Let 
my heart rejoice that it may fear Thy name.' Also 
' Serve ye the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him 
with trembling.' " 

We are drawn, my brethren, when we are exercised 
by temptations and tribulations. We run, when visited 
by interior consolations and inspirations, thus inhaling, 
as it were, the delicious odour of the Bridegroom's 
ointments. "Therefore," says the Spouse, "whatever 
seems hard and austere, I keep for myself, as being 
strong, and whole, and perfect ; and so I say in the 
singular, ' draw me.' But all that is pleasant and sweet, 
I share with you who are weak, and hence I add ' we 
shall run.' Well do I know how tender and delicate 
these * young maidens ' are, and how unfitted to endure 
the force of temptations. And therefore it is that I want 
them to run with me, but not to be drawn with me. I 
wish to have them as partakers of my consolation, but 
not of my labour. Wherefore ? Because they are weak, 
and I fear lest they should faint, lest they should 

* " I am accustomed to visit My elect two manner of ways, 
viz., by trials and by comforts ; and I read them daily two 
lessons, one to rebuke their vices, and the other to exhort them 
to the increase of virtues " (Imitation, Bk. III. ch. iii.). — 
(Translator.) 



SPOUSE DESIRES TO BE DRAWN 219 

succumb. Let me, O my Beloved ! " she exclaims, " let 
me be corrected, let me be tried, let me be tempted — 
1 draw me after Thee,' ' for I am ready for scourges,' 
and able to bear them. But we shall run together. 
Let only me be drawn, but we shall run together. We 
shall run, yes, we shall run, but ' to the odour of Thy 
ointments,' not through confidence in our own merits. 
It is not in the magnitude of our strength that we hope 
to run, but in the ' multitude of Thy tender mercies.' 
For whenever, even in the past, we have run or pos- 
sessed a good will, it was ' not oi him that willetb, nor 
of him that runneth, but of God That sheweth mercy.' 
Only let the same mercy again visit us and we shall run 
again. Thou as a Giant, and as a Mighty One, runnest 
in Thy strength. But we shall not run at all unless 
drawn by the perfume of Thy ointments. Thou dost 
run in the virtue of that ' oil of gladness ' with which 
the Father ' hath anointed Thee above Thy fellows.' We 
can only run to the odour of that ointment, for Thou 
hast the fulness and we but the odour." Now would 
be the time, my brethren, to discharge the obligation 
which I remember to have undertaken long since 
with regard to the ointments of the Bridegroom, but 
to-day's sermon has already transgressed its limits. 
Therefore I will postpone to another time the promised 
exposition, for it would be doing an injury to the dignity 
and importance of the subject to attempt to compress 
it within a space of inadequate extent. Pray ye, there- 
fore, the Lord of the ointments that He would deign 
" to make pleasing the voluntary offerings of my 
mouth," in order that I may be able to engrave deeply 
upon your minds the memory of that abounding sweet- 
ness of His, which is treasured up in the Bridegroom 
of the Church, Christ Jesus Our Lord. Amen. 



SERMON XXII 

On the Four Ointments of the Bridegroom and 
the Four Cardinal Virtues. 

" Draw me ; we will run to the odour of Thy ointments." 

If, my brethren, the ointments of the Bride are so 
exceedingly precious and magnificent, as you learned 
was the case when I was treating of them, what are 
the Bridegroom's likely to be ! And although I am 
quite unequal to the task of describing and explaining 
these in a manner worthy of their intrinsic nobility, 
nevertheless, the greater excellence of their virtue and 
the superior efficacy of their grace may be clearly 
inferred from this single fact, that the sweetness of 
the odour they exhale causes to run, not alone the 
" young maidens," but even the Spouse herself. For, 
as you may have noticed, she does not promise any 
such effect in the case of her own ointments. She does 
indeed glory in and boast of their excellence, but she 
does not pretend that she has been excited to run by 
them, or that she would be so at a future time. It 
is only with regard to her Beloved's ointments that 
that she makes such a claim or promise. And if she 
can thus be induced to run by the exhilarating influ- 
ence of so slight a perfume, wafted to her senses from 
the unction, what would she not do were she to feel 
the ointment itself poured out upon her ? It would 
surely be strange if she did not fly. But perhaps some 
of you may feel tempted to say to me, " Have done 

220 



ON THE FOUR OINTMENTS 221 

with commendations. When thou proceedest to ex- 
plain to us in what the essence and nature of these 
ointments consist, it shall then be sufficiently evident 
what kind their properties are." No, my friends. I 
can by no means undertake to give you any such ex- 
planation. And I must ask you to believe me when I 
confess that I am not even sure as to whether those 
things, which I feel suggested to my mind and am going 
to speak of, are really the ointments of the Bride- 
groom, or merely the creations of my own fancy. In 
my opinion, then, the Bridegroom possesses numerous 
spices and unguents of various kinds. Of these there 
are some whose fragrance it is given onty to the Spouse 
to enjoy, because of her singular intimacy and famili- 
arity with Him. The perfumes of others reach the 
" young maidens." Others again diffuse their sweet 
odours even to those who are far remote and extern, 
so that " there is none who can hide himself from His 
heat." But although "the Lord is sweet to all," He 
is so " especially to those of the household " ; and , as 
I think, the nearer the soul approaches Him by the 
merit of her life and the purity of her conscience, the 
fresher are the spices and the sweeter the ointments 
whose perfume she is permitted to inhale. Further- 
more, in such matters the understanding is altogether 
unable to transcend the bounds of experience. And I 
am not so rash as to arrogate to myself that which is 
the prerogative of the Spouse. None but the Bride- 
groom Himself can tell with what infusions of spiritual 
delight He ravishes the soul of His best-beloved, with 
what aromas of sweetness He intoxicates her senses, 
with what inspirations He wondrously illuminates and 
refreshes her mind. Let Him have for her as for His 



222 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

own Bride a private fountain of graces, in which the 
stranger shall have no shaie, nor shall the unworthy 
drink thereof. For it is a " Sealed Fountain," a " Garden 
Enclosed." Still, the waters flow forth therefrom into 
all the public ways. These waters, I confess, are always 
within my reach and at my service, provided no man 
shows discontent or ingratitude when I draw from the 
common source for the use of myself and others. Now, 
with your good leave, I will, after the example of St. 
Paul, commend " my ministry in this part a little." 
To me, then, it is certainly something of a weariness 
and a labour to go forth day by day * to draw from the 
common streams of Holy Scripture, in order to minister 
to the wants of all of you, so that each may have at 
hand a supply of spiritual water for his every need, 
viz., for cleansing, for drinking, or for preparing his 
food. For the word of God is the salutary water of 
wisdom, useful not only for drinking, but also for 
purifying. Hence the Lord said, " And you are clean 
because of the word which I have spoken to you." But 
the same divine word may be employed to cook the 
crude thoughts and feelings ot the carnal mind, using 
the fire of love kindled by the Holy Spirit, and trans- 
forming them in the process into spiritual reflections 
such as may serve as nourishment for the soul, so that 
she may exclaim with the Psalmist, " My heart grew 
hot within me, and in my meditation a fire shall break 
out." 

Those amongst you, my brethren, who by reason 
of the great purity of their conscience, are 
able of themselves alone to attain to loftier 

* We have here evidence that St. Bernard was in the habit of 
preaching daily to his community. — (Translator.) 



ON THE FOUR OINTMENTS 223 

things than I am engaged in treating of, 
shall certainly encounter no opposition from me. 
On the contrary, I offer them my sincere con- 
gratulations. But I expect that they, on their side, 
will suffer me to provide simpler fare for souls more 
simple. Oh, who will grant me that you may all so 
abound with the light of the Holy Spirit as to be quali- 
fied to discharge even the functions ot the prophetic 
office ! Would to God the case were so ! Then there 
would be no necessity for me to occupy myself with 
these instructions. Would to God that this duty had de- 
volved on some other ! Or, at any rate — which, indeed, 
I should much prefer — that none of you stood in need 
of such instruction, but were " all taught of God," so 
that I might '* be still and see " that the Bridegroom 
of my soul is none other than my Maker. But now, 
in the meantime — although I am unable to say it with- 
out tears — it is not permitted me to seek after, much 
less to contemplate " the King in His beauty," " seated 
upon the Cherubim," " sitting on a throne high and 
elevated," in that Divine Form in which He was be- 
gotten, equal to the Father " before the day-star, in the 
brightness of the saints," in which the angels desire to 
behold Him, God with God. Yet, a man myself, I will 
speak to men of Him as Man, according to the human 
form wherein, of His exceeding condescension and 
charity, in order to reveal Himself to us, He made 
Himself a " little less than the angels," and " hath set 
His tabernacle in the sun, and He as a Bridegroom 
coming out of His bridal-chamber." I will speak of 
Him rather as sweet than as sublime, rather as anointed 
than elevated. I will speak of Him as anointed by the 
Spirit and " sent to preach the Gospel to the poor, to 



224 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

heal the contrite of heart, to preach a release to the 
captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up, to 
proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." 

Leaving, then, to each whatever more sublime and 
delicate perfumes, so to speak, of grace and sanctity 
it may have been given him to feel and to enjoy from 
the Bridegroom's ointments, I shall expend for the 
common use what I have received from the common 
source. For the very " Fountain of life," the " Sealed 
Fountain " issuing forth from the interior of the 
" Garden Enclosed," through the orifice of St. Paul's 
mouth, as being truly that wisdom, which, according 
to the words of holy Job, " is drawn out of secret 
places " — this Fountain, I say, divides its waters into 
four streams and through these pours itself out upon 
the common ways. There it represents to us Him, 
Who for us has been "made of God Wisdom, and 
Justice, and Sanctification, and Redemption." These 
four streams are also four most precious ointments. 
For there is nothing to prevent the same thing being 
conceived as both water and ointment, watei in so far 
as it cleanses, ointment inasmuch as it perfumes. 
From these streams, therefore, which are at the same 
time odoriferous ointments, produced from celestial 
elements on the aromatic hills, such an odour of sweet- 
ness filled the nostrils of the Church, that, attracted in 
her members by the sweetness of the fragrance from the 
four corners of the world, she hastened to her Beloved, 
as being indeed that " queen of the south " who hurried 
from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, 
drawn by the pleasant odour of his fame. 

It is clear that the Church was not able to run to the 
odour of her Solomon, until He, Who from eternity was 






ON THE FOUR OINTMENTS 225 

the Wisdom of the Father, was made by the Father 

Wisdom also in time, tor her sake, in order that she 

might enjoy His divine fragrance. So, too, was He made 

Justice, and Sanctification, and Redemption, all for her, 

that she might also run to the odours of such ointments, 

though in Himself the Bridegroom was all these equally 

from all eternity. For even " in the beginning (He) was 

the Word." Yet it was only after the announcement of 

His having been made Flesh that the shepherds came 

in haste to see Him. They said to each other, " Let 

us go over to Bethlehem and let us see this Word that 

is come to pass which the Loid hath made and hath 

shewed to us/' And the Evangelist adds that " they 

came in haste." Previously, whilst the Word was 

only with God, they could not move at all. But when 

the Word, Which was in the beginning, was made Flesh 

in time, was made Flesh and shown to them by the 

Lord, then " they came in haste," then they ran. And 

just as He was the Word in the beginning, but was the 

Word with God only, and was made Flesh that He 

might be also the Word with men ; in the same way, 

He was in the beginning Wisdom, and Justice, and 

Sanctification, and Redemption, yet to the angels 

only. But that He might be so to men as well He 

was made all these by the Father, forasmuch as He is 

a Father. " Who was made," says the Apostle, " for 

us Wisdom of God." He does not say simply " Who 

was made Wisdom," but " Who was made for us 

Wisdom." For what He was to the angels already, 

that He now was made for us. 

But some of you may say, " I fail to see how He 

was Redemption to the angels. For there is nothing 

anywhere in the Holy Scriptures to show that they 
1. p 



226 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

were ever captives to sin or subject to death, so as to 
be in need of redemption, except indeed those who, by 
committing the irremediable sin of pride, placed them- 
selves beyond all hope of redemption. Thus, therefore, 
the angels have never been redeemed, some not need- 
ing it, others undeserving oi it ; some because they never 
fell, others because their fall was irrevocable. How, 
then, canst thou assert that the Lord Jesus has been 
to them Redemption ? " My answer shall be short. 
He who lifted up man after his fall, gave to the angel 
who stood that he should not fall, preserving the latter 
from the same captivity from which He delivered the 
former. In this way, then, He was equally Redemption 
to both, by preventing sin * in the one case, and re- 
mitting it in the other. Hence it is evident that Christ 
the Lord was Redemption to the angels, as He was 
Justice, and Wisdom, and Sanctification. And, never- 
theless, these four things He was visibly made for the 
sake of men who can clearly see the invisible things of 
God only as "understood by the things that are made." 
Thus He was made for us all that He was for the angels. 
What is that ? It is Wisdom, and Justice, and Sanc- 
tification, and Redemption. Wisdom in His preaching, 
Justice in the remission of sin, Sanctification in His 
familiar intercourse with sinners, Redemption in His 
Passion endured for sinners. When, therefore, He was 
made all these "of God" then the Church perceived 
His odour, then she began to run. 
Contemplate, now, my brethren, this fourfold unction. 

* In the same way John Duns Scotus showed that our Lady's 
Immaculate Conception was quite consistent with the univer- 
sality of Redemption. But the idea of preventive Redemption 
was no discovery of the Irish Doctor, as some have supposed. 
The above passage makes that clear. — (Translator.) 



ON THE FOUR OINTMENTS 227 

Consider the abounding and inexpressible sweetness of 
Him Whom the Father " hath anointed with the oil 
of gladness above His fellows. " Thou wert sitting, O 
man, in darkness and in the shadow of death by reason 
of thy ignorance of the truth. Thou wert seated in 
fetters, bound with the chains of thy sins, and He 
descended to thee into the prison, not to torture thee, 
but to rescue thee from the power of darkness. First 
ot all, as the Doctor of truth, He dispelled the clouds 
of thy ignorance by the light of His own wisdom. Next , 
by the " justice which is of faith," He loosed the bonds 
of sin, "justifying the sinner freely." By these two 
benefits was fulfilled the word of David, " The Lord 
looseth them that are fettered ; the Lord enlighteneth 
the blind." To these He added the example of His 
holy life, lived amongst sinners, thus exhibiting to them 
a model for their imitation, and, as it were, marking 
out the way whereby they might return to their father- 
land. Lastly, to crown the largesses of His piety, He 
delivered up His Soul to death for them, and from His 
own Heart produced the price of their redemption and 
of their reconciliation with the Father. In this way, 
He plainly appropriated to Himself the verse, " With 
the Lord there is mercy, and with Him plentiful re- 
demption." Plentiful surely, for not in drops, but in 
streams, the Precious Blood issued through the Five 
Wounds of His Sacred Body. 

My brethren, what ought He to have done for us, 
and has not done it ? He has enlightened our blindness, 
He has loosed our bonds, He has brought us back from 
our wanderings, He has made satisfaction for our sins. 
Can anyone be unwilling to run gladly and eagerly 
after Him who delivers us from present errors and over- 



228 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

looks all those of the past, Who by His life wins for us 
merits and by His death obtains rewards ? What excuse 
can he have who does not run to the odour of these 
ointments, unless perchance he be one whom the odour 
has not reached ? But that odour of life has gone out 
over the whole earth, because " the earth is full of the 
mercy of the Lord," " and His tender mercies are over 
all His works." He, therefore, who is not sensible of 
this vivifying fragrance everywhere diffused, and hence 
does not run to it, is either corrupt or a corpse. This 
odour is the good fame of Christ, which spreads itself 
abroad like a sweet perfume, exciting us to run, leading 
us to the experience of His unction here, and to the 
vision of Him as our reward hereafter. All who enjoy 
that bliss, all who have attained to that crowning 
vision, cry out exult ingly, with one acclaim, " As we 
have heard, so we have seen in the city of the Lord of 
Hosts." Yes, O Lord Jesus, we will run after Thee, 
on account of the sweetness which is proclaimed to be 
characteristic of Thee, for we are told that Thou dost 
not spurn the needy nor abhor the guilty. Thou cer- 
tainly didst not show any abhorrence of the confessing 
Thief, nor of the weeping Magdalen, nor of the sup- 
liant Canaanite, nor of the woman taken in sin, nor of 
him that sat in the Publican's office, nor of that other 
Publican who prayed in the temple, nor of the Apostle 
who denied Thee, nor of Paul, the persecutor of Thy 
followers, nor even of those who nailed Thee to the 
cross. Yes, we will run to the odour of such examples, 
of such ointments ! We also inhale the sweet perfume 
of Thy wisdom from what we have heard, namely, 
that if any one wants wisdom, he has only to ask it 
of Thee, and Thou wilt give it to him. For we are told 



ON THE FOUR OINTMENTS 229 

that Thou givest to all abundantly and upbraidest 
not. But so great and all-pervading is the odour ex- 
haling from Thy justice that Thou art called, not just, 
but Justice Itself, and Justifying Justice. And as able 
as Thou art to justify Thou art equally " bountiful to 
forgive." Wherefore, whoever feels compunction for 
his sins, and hungers and thirsts after justice, let him 
believe in Thee Who justifiest the impious, and thus, 
justified by faith alone,* he shall have peace with God. 
Not alone Thy life, but even Thy conception is most 
sweetly and abundantly redolent of the fragrance of 
Thy sanctity. For Thou wert as free from inherited 
as Thou art from personal guilt. Let those, therefore, 
who, justified from their sins, desire and determine to 
pursue after holiness, without which no one shall see 
God, let such, I say, listen to Thee commanding, " Be 
ye holy, because I am holy." Let them consider Thy 
ways and learn of Thee, because Thou art just in all 
Thy ways and holy in all Thy works. Oh, how many 
have been induced to run by the most sweet odour of 
Thy redemption ! Ever since Thou wert lifted up 
from the earth, Thou surely hast been drawing all 
things to Thyself. Thy sacred Passion is our last 
refuge, our sole remedy. When wisdom is wanting to 
us, when justice falls short, when the merits of sanctity 
fail to secure us, even then we find support and deliver- 
ance in Thy Passion. For who can presume on his own 
wisdom, or justice, or sanctity as sufficient to save him ? 
Hence the Apostle, " not that we are sufficient to think 
anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our suffici- 
ency is from God." Therefore, " when my virtue fails," 

* That is, by " the Faith which worketh through charity," 
and so includes the practice of all the virtues. — (Translator.) 



230 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

I shall not lose peace, I shall not lose confidence. " I 
know what I will do " : " I will take the chalice of 
salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Loid." 

Lord, enlighten my eyes, "that I may know what 
is acceptable with Thee at all times." So shall I be 
wise. " The sins of my youth and my ignorances do 
not remember." So shall I be just. " Conduct me, O 
Lord, in Thy way," and so I shall be holy. Yet, after 
all, unless Thy Blood makes intercession for me, I shall 
not be saved. It is because of all these odours that we 
run after Thee. Grant our petitions and so send us 
away, because, like the Canaanite woman, " we cry 
after Thee." 

But, my brethren, we do not all run equally to the 
odour of all the ointments. You may observe some 
more ardent in the pursuit of wisdom, others more 
incited to penance by the hope of pardon, others again 
more drawn to the practice of virtue by the example 
of the Saviour's life and conversation, still others 
more inflamed with love by the memory of His Passion, 

1 think I can present you with instances of persons 
specially attracted in these several ways. They ran to 
the odour of His Wisdom, who, sent to Him by the Phar- 
isees, reported on their return that " never man spoke as 
this Man." For, being filled with admiration of His doc- 
trine, they acknowledged the greatness of His Wisdom. 
To the same odour ran holy Nicodemus who, though he 
" came to Jesus by night," indeed, yet walked in the re- 
splendent illumination of Divine Wisdom, and returned 
instructed and enlightened about many things. Mary 
Magdalen, to whom " many sins were forgiven, because 
she hath loved much," ran to the odour of His Justice. 
Just and holy she was in truth, and no longer a sinner, 



ON THE FOUR OINTMENTS 231 

so as to deserve the reproach of the Pharisee, who 
knew not that justification and sanctity are the gifts 
of God, not the works of man ; and that he to whom 
the Lord imputes not sin, is not only just, but blessed 
as well. Or had this Simon forgotten how Christ, by 
His touch, had healed instead of contracting the cor- 
poreal leprosy of himself or of some other Simon ? For 
the Just One, when touched by the sinner, did not 
lose, but communicated, His justice ; nor did He soil 
Himself with the filth of sin from which He cleansed 
the penitent woman. To this odour also ran the 
Publican, who, after humbly imploring pardon for his 
sins, " went down to his house justified," as Justice 
Himself bears witness. To the same ran St. Peter. 
For after his fall " he wept bitterly," in order to wash 
away his sin, and recover grace. David, too, ran to 
this odour, when, by acknowledging and confessing his 
fault, he deserved to hear from Nathan, " the Lord 
also hath taken away thy sin." St. Paul testifies of 
himself that he ran to the odour of Sanctification, when 
he boasts that he is " an imitator of Christ," saying 
to his disciples, " Be ye imitators of me, as I also am 
of Christ." To the same ran all the Apostles, who 
said, by the mouth of Peter, " Behold we have left 
all things, and have followed Thee." The desire, that 
is to say, of following Christ, led them to abandon all 
else. All men in general are invited to run to this 
odour by the words of St. John, "He who saith he 
abideth in Him, ought himself also to walk, even as 
He walked." 

Now, if you wish to know who they are that ran to 
the odour of Redemption, I tell you, my brethren, that 
these are all the martyrs. Thus I have set forth for 



232 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

you the four precious ointments of Wisdom, Justice, 
Sa ratification, and Redemption. Remember their 
names, and enjoy their odours. But do not ask me 
about the manner of their composition, nor about the 
number of spices from which they are produced. For, 
as regards the ointments of the Bridegroom and the 
elements thereof, such questions are not so easy to 
answer as in the case of the unguents and spices of the 
Spouse, of which I have treated in an earlier sermon. 
The reason is that in Christ these ointments are without 
either number or measure ; since " of His Wisdom there 
is no number " ; and " His Justice is as the mountains 
of God," as the eternal hills ; and His Sanctity is infinite, 
and His Redemption ineffable. 

This also I must say : Vainly have the wise of this 
world disputed so much concerning the four cardinal vir- 
tues, which they were quite incapable of understanding, 
since they knew not Him " Who for us was made 
Wisdom of God " to teach us prudence, and Justice 
to satisfy for our sins, and Sanctification to give us 
in His mortified life an example of temperance, and 
Redemption to exhibit to us in His patiently-suffered 
death a model of fortitude. But perhaps some one 
will say to me, " Thy other remarks are well enough, 
but it hardly seems proper to refer sanctification to 
the virtue of temperance." To this I reply, first, that 
temperance and continence are one and the same 
thing ; secondly, that it is usual in Scripture to put 
sanctification for continence or purity. Then, what 
else are those numerous sanctifications prescribed by 
Moses except so many purifications, or exercises of 
temperance in food, and drink, and such like? But 
above all, hear how familiar it is with the Apostle to 



ON THE FOUR OINTMENTS 233 

use or to intend the word sanctification in this sense. 
" This," he says, " is the will ol God, your sanctifica- 
tion, that every one of you should know how to possess 
his vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the 
passion of lust." Again, " For God hath not called us 
unto uncleanness but unto sanctification." Evidently, 
in these passages sanctification is put for temperance. 

Having now, as I hope, placed in light what appeared 
to be somewhat obscure, I return to the point whence 
I digressed. To the worldly-wise pagans, therefore, I 
say, what have you to do with the virtues, who know 
not Christ, the " Virtue of God " ? Where, T ask, will 
you find real prudence, except in the doctrine of Christ ? 
Where true justice, save from the mercy of Christ ? 
Where true temperance, except in the life of Christ ? 
And where true fortitude, but in the Passion of Christ ? 
Consequently, only they deserve to be called prudent, 
who are instructed in His doctrine. Only they just, 
who, of His mercy, have obtained forgiveness of their 
sins. Only those temperate, who study to imitate the 
example of His life. And those alone possessed of 
fortitude who, in adversity, conform with constancy to 
the model of His patience. It is vain, therefore, for 
anyone to labour for the acquisition of virtues, if he 
expects to obtain them otherwise than from Him Who 
is named the " Lord of Virtues," and Whose doctrine 
is the seed of prudence ; Whose mercy, the source of 
works of justice ; Whose life, the mirror of temperance, 
and Whose death is the glory and the model of 
fortitude. 

To Him be honour and glory for endless ages. Amen. 



SERMON XXIII 

On the Mystical Meaning of the Garden, the 
Storeroom, and the Bedchamber. 

•' The King hath brought me into His storerooms ; we will be glad 
and rejoice in thee, remembering thy breasts more than wine. 

"The King hath brought me into His storerooms." 
Behold, my brethren, the source of the odour ! Be- 
hold the goal of the running ! The Spouse has already 
told us that we are to run, and after what odours we 
are to run ; but not till now has she mentioned whither 
we are to direct our running. Therefore, she now ex- 
plains that we are to run to the King's storerooms, and 
under the influence of the odours proceeding thence ; tor 
she, with her wonted sagacity, has been the first to detect 
the fragrance and is eager for admission to its source, so 
that she may enjoy the fulness thereof. But what are 
we to understand by these storerooms ? For the present 
let us consider them as the Bridegroom's sweet-smelling 
promptuaries, so to speak, filled with odoriferous fruits 
of the soil, replenished with all manner of delights. It 
is in storehouses of this kind that all the more precious 
produce of the field and the garden are hoarded up and 
preserved. Here, then, is the goal of the running. 
But who are they that run ? They are souls that are 
fervent in spirit. The Spouse runs, and so do the 
"young maidens." But the former runs more swiftly 
because she loves more ardently, and so reaches her 
destination more speedily. On her arrival, far from 

234 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 235 

meeting with a repulse, she is not even kept waiting. 
The door is opened to her without delay, as to one of 
the household, as to one most tenderly and especially 
beloved, and most warmly welcomed. But what about 
the "young maidens"? They are following indeed, 
but far behind. For, being as yet weak, they cannot 
keep pace with the devotion of the Spouse, nor emulate 
her desire and her fervour. Therefore, thev arrive later 
and remain outside. But the charity of the Spouse is 
not at rest nor, as commonly happens, is she so elated 
with her good fortune as to forget them. Rather she 
consoles them and encourages them to bear with pati- 
ence and equanimity both their disappointment and 
their separation from herself. She also tells them of 
the happiness she enjoys, for no other reason than that 
they may rejoice with her, because they feel firmly 
persuaded that, whatever graces and favours are be- 
stowed upon their mother, they have a right to regard 
as in some sense their own. For she is not so intent 
upon her own advancement as to neglect the care of 
them, nor does she wish to procure any advantage to 
herself or to her private interests at their expense. 
Therefore, no matter how high above them the superi- 
ority of her merits raises her, she will most certainly 
feel obliged, through her charity and tender solici- 
tude, to remain always with them. For it behoves 
her to emulate the example of her Beloved. And as 
He, whilst ascending to heaven, promised nevertheless 
to abide on earth with His disciples, even to the con- 
summation of the world, so should she also combine a 
care for others with zeal for her own spiritual progress. 
Hence, whatever her distance from them, however far 
advanced beyond them, she can never lay aside her 



236 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

care, and her solicitude, and her affection for those 
whom she has brought forth in the Gospel ; she can 
never forget her own flesh and blood. 

She says to them, therefore, " Rejoice and have con- 
fidence. The King hath brought me into His store- 
rooms. Consider yourselves introduced likewise. I, 
indeed, appear to be the only one brought in, but I 
am not the only one deriving benefit therefrom. For 
every advantage to me belongs equally to all of you. 
It is for you I advance, and amongst you I will share 
whatever beyond you I may chance to merit." Do you 
wish, my brethren, to know for certain that she spoke 
to them in this sense and with such loving affection ? 
Then, listen to their reply : " We will be glad and re- 
joice in thee." "In thee," they say, "we will be glad 
and rejoice, since we have not yet deserved to experi- 
ence such emotions in ourselves." And they immedi- 
ately add, "remembering thy breasts." As if they 
should say, " Yes, we will patiently await thy coming, 
knowing that thou wilt return to us with full breasts. 
Then we hope to be glad and to rejoice ; meanwhile 
we console ourselves with the memory of thy breasts." 
The words added, "more than wine," indicate that, 
by reason of their imperfection, they still relish the 
memory of carnal delights, yet acknowledge that the 
desire of these has been overcome by the abundant 
sweetness, which, as they know by experience, issues 
forth from the breasts of the Spouse. I should now dis- 
course at length on these breasts, only that I recollect 
having treated of them sufficiently in a previous sermon. 
But see now how the young maidens presume with their 
mother, and how they reckon as their own her joys and 
her gains, and generously console themselves for their 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 237 

disappointment in not obtaining admittance by the 
thought of her success. Certainly, they could not be 
so bold with her, did they not recognise in her a mother. 
Attend to this, ye prelates, who are always ready to 
inspire your flocks with fear, but seldom to do them a 
service. " Receive instruction, ye that judge the earth." 
Learn how you ought to be the mothers rather than 
the masters of these committed to your care. Study, 
therefore, to make yourselves more loved than feared ; 
and if, sometimes, there is need of severity, let it be 
the severity of a parent, not that of a tyrant. Show 
yourselves to be mothers in love and fathers in correc- 
tion. Cultivate meekness, restrain your anger, put 
away the scourge of discipline and offer instead the 
breasts of affection. And let these breasts be enlarged 
with an abundance of milk, not dilated by the force 
of passion. Why do you lay your heavy yoke upon 
the people whose burdens it is rather your duty to bear ? 
Why is it that the little one, bitten by the infernal 
serpent, avoids manifesting his condition to the priest, 
to whom he ought to run with more eagerness than to 
his mother's breast ? If you be spiritual persons, in- 
struct such in the spirit of mildness, each looking to 
himself, " lest he also be tempted." Otherwise, he " shall 
die in his iniquity," says the Lord, "but I will require 
his blood at thy hand." But of this later. 

Now we have to try and discover what is the spiri- 
tual signification of these storerooms, as the literal 
sense of the text is manifest enough from the foregoing 
observations. In the following verses, theie is mention 
of a garden and of a bedchamber. I intend to treat of 
both of these in my present discourse, in connexion 
with the storerooms. For, by considering them together, 



238 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

We shall be able to make each of the three throw 
light on the others. And first, if you please, we shall 
seek in the Holy Scriptures for these three things, viz., 
a garden, a storeroom, and a bedchamber. For the 
soul that thirsts after God gladly rests and lingers in 
His inspired word, knowing that therein, without any 
doubt, she shall find Him for Whose company she 
yearns. Let the garden, then, symbolise the simple 
plain, historic sense. Let the storeroom represent the 
moral signification, and let the bedchamber typify the 
secret meaning only revealed to divine contemplation. 
Not without reason, as I think, is the historic sense 
compared to a garden, because in it we find men of 
virtue, like to fruit-trees in the garden of the Bride- 
groom, in the paradise of God, from whose virtuous 
actions and holy lives we may gather the fruits of good 
examples. Does any one doubt that the good man is 
a tree planted by the hand of God ? If so, let him 
listen to David, "And he shall belike a tree which is 
planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth 
its fruit in due season, and his leaf shall not fall off." 
Hear Jeremias singing in concert, in the same Spirit, 
and almost in the same words, " And he shall be as a 
tree that is planted by the waters, that spreadeth out 
its roots towards the moisture, and it shall not fear 
when the heat cometh." Again the Psalmist, "The 
just shall flourish like the palm-tree ; he shall grow 
up like the cedar of Libanus." And again of himself, 
" But I (am) as a fruitful olive-tree in the house of 
God." The Scripture history, then, is a garden, and 
contains three divisions. In it are comprised the Crea- 
tion of heaven and earth, the Reconciliation, and the 
Restoration. Creation may be considered as the sowing, 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 239 

or the planting of the garden, and Reconciliation as the 
growth of what has been sown or planted. For in the 
fulness of time, when the heavens dropped down dew 
from above and the clouds rained down the Just, the 
earth opened and budded forth the Saviour, by Whom 
was effected the Reconciliation of heaven and earth. 
"For He is our peace, Who hath made both one," 
" making peace through the Blood of His cross, both 
as to the things on earth, and the things that are in 
heaven." The Restoration is reserved until the end of 
the world. For then there shall be a "new heaven 
and a new earth," and the good shall be collected 
from out the midst of the wicked, as fruit from the 
garden, to be laid up in the divine storehouses. "In 
that day," so Isaias, "the bud of the Lord shall be 
in magnificence and glory, and the fruit of the earth 
shall be high." You have, consequently, three distinct 
departments in this garden of the historic sense. 

In the moral signification, likewise, three things have 
to be noticed, as it were three cellars in the same store- 
house. And perhaps this is the reason why we have 
" storerooms " in the plural, rather than "storeroom," 
to indicate, namely, the number of cellars. Hence, 
later on, we shall hear the Spouse boasting of the fact 
that she has been brought into the wine-cellar. We are 
told in Proverbs, " Give occasion to a wise man, and 
wisdom shall be added to him." Therefore, as the Holy 
Spirit has given the occasion in the name which it has 
pleased Him to impose on this cellar, let us not hesitate 
to give names to the other two also, calling one the 
cellar of spices and the other the cellar of unguents. 
The reason of such appellations I will explain after- 
wards. Observe, meantime, how everything about the 



240 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Bridegroom is sweet and health-giving : wine, and oint- 
ments, and spices. "Wine," as the Scriptures bear 
witness, "rejoiceth the heart of man." We read also 
that he "maketh his face cheerful with oil," which oil 
has been mixed, no doubt, with odoriferous elements, 
so as to make of it an ointment. The aromatic spices 
are not only prized for the sweetness of their fragrance, 
but also for their medicinal properties. Good reason, 
therefore, had the Spouse for boasting of her admission 
into those cellars which are filled with such abounding 
treasures of grace. 

But I have other names besides for these three 
cellars, which, it seems to me, are even more evidently 
applicable than those I have just explained. To pro- 
- ceed in due order, I call the first cellar Discipline, the 
second Nature, and the third Grace. In the first we 
learn, according to the rules of sound morality, how to 
be subject to others ; in the second, how to be equal, 
in the third, how to be superior. In plainer words, we 
learn how to live under others, how to live on terms of 
equality with others, and how to rule over others. Or 
again, we are taught in the first the duties of subjec- 
tion ; in the second, the duties of equality ; and in the 
third, the duties of superiority. Therefore, Discipline 
teaches us how to be disciples, nature how to be equals, 
and Grace how to be superiors. By nature, indeed, all 
men were made equal.* But their natural perfection 

* " Omnes homines natura aequales genuit." That is to say, 
all men are equal specifically and in the abstract, as equally 
participating in the same human nature, and all enjoy equal 
specific rights. But in the concrete — to quote Dr. Ryan — " men's 
natural rights are unequal, just as are the concrete natures from 
which they spring . . . men are equal as regards the number of 
their natural rights. The most important of these are the right 






MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 241 

having been corrupted by pride, they grew impatient 
of this original equality, endeavoured to rise each above 
the other, and desired to surpass each other, led on by 
the love of vainglory to mutual envy and jealousy. In 
the first place, therefore, and in the first cellar, the wan- 
tonness of our manners and characters must be kept 
in restraint by the yoke of discipline, until the will, its 
obstinacy having been worn away, as it were, by the 
friction of the hard and long-pressing precepts of our 
superiors, shall thus be humbled and healed, and re- 
cover that natural integrity which it lost through pride. 
Then, when we have learned to live peaceably and soci- 
ably, as far as it depends upon us, with all who share 
our common nature, namely, with all men, and that 
not through fear of correction, but solely from a senti- 
ment of natural affection — then, I say, we shall pass 
from the cellar called Discipline into that of Nature. 
Here we shall experience the truth of what is written, 
" Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to 
dwell together in unity, like precious ointment on the 
head ! ' : For to disciplined morals, as to sweet spices 
pounded together, there is added now the oil of glad- 
ness, that is to say, the perfection of our nature is 

to life, to liberty, to livelihood, to property, to marriage, to 
religious worship, to moral and intellectual education. These 
inhere in all men, without distinction," but have not necessarily 
the same extension or content in all, such extension being 
determined by the special circumstances of each individual. 
This is the sense in which we must interpret the above-quoted 
sentence of St. Bernard, unless we wish to regard him as the pre- 
cursor of Hobbes, Rousseau, Paine, and the present-day 
prophets of anarchy and socialism, who maintain the absolute 
equality of all men, and, whether by accident or otherwise, have 
selected his very words to epitomise their doctrines. The same 
words have also found their way into the American " Declara- 
tion of Independence." Cf. Hickey, Ethica, p. 200. — (Translator.) 
«• Q 



242 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

restored, and the result is an ointment exceedingly 
"good and pleasant." 

This unguent renders a man sweet and mild, makes 
him such that he never complains, never overreaches, 
never strikes or otherwise injures anybody, never 
boasts or prefers himself to anyone and, moreover, he 
enters gladly into the kindly intercourse of friendship 
which consists in the interchange of all good offices. 

If you have well understood the properties of these 
two cellars, I think you must admit that not alto^ 
gether fanciful are the names I have given them, call- 
ing the first the cellar of spices, and the second the 
cellar of unguents. For, just as the violent pounding 
of the pestle presses and squeezes out the essence and 
fragrance of the aromatic elements, so does the force 
of authority and the pressure of discipline in the cellar 
of spices beat out and extract, so to speak, the natural 
excellence of good morals. In the cellar of unguents 
flows that pleasing and spontaneously obliging sweet- 
ness of a free and, as it were, instinctive affection, 
like the ointment on the head, which, at the slightest 
touch of heat, trickles down and spreads itself over the 
whole body. Hence, the aromatic elements are con- 
tained in the cellar of Discipline, but as yet dry and 
uncompounded ; and this is my reason for naming it 
the cellar of spices. In the second cellar, which I 
have called Nature, the conf ected ointments are stored 
up and preserved ; to this fact it owes its name of the 
cellar of unguents. And I think the third has been 
called the wine-cellar, for no other reason than because 
it contains the wine of zeal, fervescent with charity. 
He who has not yet deserved to be introduced into this, 
ought not by any means to undertake the government 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 243 

of others. For every ruler should be aglow with this 
wine, as was the Doctor of Nations when he exclaimed, 
" Who is weak and I am not weak ? Who is scandal- 
ised and I am not on fire ? " Otherwise, you act very 
wickedly in seeking to govern those whom you feel 
no desire to benefit ; and by insisting too ambitiously 
on the submission to your authority of men for whose 
salvation you have no concern. To this cellar I have 
given the second name of the cellar of Grace, not indeed 
as if even the other two can be attained without grace, 
but because of the plenitude of all graces, which is 
received in this alone. For " Charity is the fulfilling 
of the law." And it is also written that " he that 
loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law." 

You now understand, my brethren, the signification 
of the names. Let us consider next the difference be- 
tween the cellars. For it is a truth of experience that 
we do not possess the same ease and capacity for living 
at peace with our companions, united in the bonds of 
spontaneous affection, and for repressing with the fear 
of the master, and restraining with the sharp curb of 
discipline, the petulance and inconstancy of the senses, 
and the inordinate desires of the flesh. It is one thing 
to live a well-ordered life under the government of a 
watchful superior, and quite another to exercise charity 
habitually in our dealings with our brethren, solely in 
obedience to the promptings of our own wills. And 
surely no one would say that it is a matter of equal 
merit and of equal virtue to live in peace and harmony 
with our equals, and to govern wisely and with ad- 
vantage to the governed. How many there are who 
lead a quiet life under the eye of a superior, yet whom, 
if released from the yoke of subjection, you would find 



244 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

incapable of repose, incapable even of keeping them- 
selves from doing harm to their brethren ! How many 
also do you behold conversing with their equals sin- 
cerely and without offence, who, if raised to the rank 
of superior, would show themselves to be not only 
useless, but devoid of good sense, and even wanting in 
probity ! Persons of this description have in their own 
place all that they require, and so should find content- 
ment in that mediocrity of goodness which God has be- 
stowed upon them as their measure of grace. They do 
not indeed any longer need the watchful supervision of 
a master, but neither are they qualified to act as the 
masters of others. Hence, they surpass in moral ex- 
cellence those who belong to the first class or cellar, and 
are still subject to discipline, but they are themselves 
surpassed by those of the third class, by those, that is, 
who possess the qualities requisite in a superior. Such 
as these, who know how to govern well and wisely, have 
received the promise that they shall be set over all the 
goods of their Lord. It is indeed a fact that there are 
but few who can govern with advantage to their sub- 
jects, and fewer still who can govern with humility. 
Nevertheless, that superior shall easily fulfil these two 
conditions of good government, ruling with profit to his 
inferiors without spiritual loss to himself, that superior, 
I say, who, after perfectly acquiring the virtue which 
is mother of all the others, that is, the virtue of dis- 
cretion, is furthermore inebriated with the wine of 
charity, to the extent of despising his own glory, and 
forgetting himself and his personal interests. 

It is only in the wine-cellar this wine can be ob- 
tained, and only under the admit able direction of the 
Holy Ghost. Without the fervour of charity, discretion 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 245 

is unfruitful and sluggish ; whilst, unless tempered with 
discretion, the impetuosity of fervour easily induces 
precipitation. Worthy of admiration, therefore, is he 
to whom neither of these virtues is wanting, so that 
discretion is enlivened by fervour, and fervour held 
in check by discretion. Such, my brethren, is the 
character which superiors ought to possess. In my 
opinion, he has completely attained to the perfection 
both of morals and of discipline, to whomsoever it has 
been granted to pass through and around all these 
cellars without hindrance. I mean, he who in no parti- 
cular either resists his superiors, or envies his equals ; 
who governs without pride and without neglect of his 
subjects ; who is obedient to those over him, con- 
descending and useful to those under him, and agree- 
able to his equals. The glory of such perfection I have 
not the slightest hesitation in attributing to the Spouse. 
Nay, she even implicitly claims it for herself, when she 
boasts that "The King hath brought me into His 
storerooms." For here she does not assert that she 
has been introduced into this or that particular store- 
room ; but simply says, speaking in the plural, " into 
His storerooms," which must be taken to mean all. 

Let us come now to the bedchamber. What does it 
symbolise ? And am I so presumptuous as to imagine 
I can comprehend its meaning ? Far be it from me to 
make pretensions to so sublime an experience, or to 
boast of a prerogative which belongs exclusively to the 
happy Spouse. According to the counsel of the Greek * 

* Socrates is said to have summed up his teaching in the two 
words, " yvSiBi aeavTov " (know thyself), all wisdom consisting 
in self-knowledge. This celebrated precept has been attributed 
to each of the Seven Sages, and even to Apollo's own daughter, 
the mythical Phemonoe, for which reason it was inscribed over 



246 



ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 



w 



A* 









philosopher, I take care to know myself, that, with the 
Prophet, " I may also know what is wanting to me." 
And yet if I knew nothing about the bedchamber, I 
surely could say nothing. What knowledge I have, I 
will not begrudge nor withhold from you. And as to 
that whereof I am ignorant, may He instruct you 
" Who teacheth knowledge to man." I have observed, 
if you recollect, that it is in the privacy of loving con- 
templation we must look for the King's bedchamber. 
And in speaking of the ointments, I remember to have 
said that the Bridegroom possesses many and various 
unguents, and that all these are not equally accessible 
to all, but his own to each, according to the diversity 
of merits. In the same way, I think that the King 
has not one but several bedchambers. For certainly 
there are more than one queen, there are many wives 
(concubince) and an innumerable throng of young 
maidens. Each of these has her own place for private 
intercourse with the Bridegroom, and says, " my secret 
to myself, my secret to myself." Not all are permitted 
to enjoy in the same chamber the delightful and secret 
I presence of the Beloved, but each in that only which 
has been prepared for her by the Father. For it is 
not we that have chosen Him, but He hath first chosen 
us and appointed us our several places. And where- 
soever each has been put by Him, there he ought to 
remain. Thus, to one contrite woman was given a 
place at the Feet of the Lord Jesus. Another, if indeed 
another and not the same, enjoyed the fruit of her 
devotion at His Head. St. Thomas obtained the grace 

the portico of Apollo's temple at Delphi. The reader will 
recall St. Augustine's beautiful prayer, "Let me know Thee, 
my God, let me know myself " (noverim Te, noverim me). — 
(Translator.) 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 247 

of this secret in the Saviour's Side, St. John on His 
Breast, St. Peter in the Father's Bosom, St. Paul in 
the third heaven. 

Which of us, my brethren, is competent to distinguish 
accurately these varieties of merits, or rather of rewards ? 
Lest, however, we should seem to have passed over 
that which we do know, I say that the first woman 
sought her repose in the security of humility, the second 
in the seat of hope, St. Thomas in the solidity of faith, 
St. John in the breadth of charity, St. Paul in the pro- 
fundity of wisdom, St. Peter in the light of truth. 
Thus, therefore, has the Bridegroom many mansions, 
and every soul, whether a queen, or a wife, or one of 
the young maidens, obtains there the place and the 
limit proportionate to her merits, until it be permitted 
her to ascend higher by contemplation, to enter into the 
joy of her Lord, and to search out all the delightful 
secrets of her Beloved. This I will endeavour to explain 
more clearly in its proper place, according as the Spirit 
shall condescend to inspire me. Meantime, let it suffice 
us to know that none of the young maidens, none of 
the wives, none even of the queens, can have any access 
to that secret bedchamber, which, alone of its kind, the 
Bridegroom has reserved to His " beautiful dove," His 
" perfect one." Hence, I have no reason to complain 
of not being admitted thither, especially since I know 
that the Spouse herself cannot, as yet, attain to every 
secret she would wish to discover. For she demands 
to be informed " where He feedeth, where He lieth in 
the mid-day." 

But let me tell you what I have attained to, or rather 
what I believe myself to have attained to. And you 
must not regard as a boast this communication, which 



248 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

I make only for your good. There is in the home of 
the Bridegroom a certain place where, as Governor of 
the universe, He frames His decrees, and disposes His 
counsels, appointing to all creatures their laws, their 
weight, measure, and number. It is a lofty place and 
a secret, but very far from quiet. For although, as 
far as depends on Him, He " disposeth all things 
sweetly/' still He does really dispose. And He will 
not suffer the contemplative soul which, perchance, has 
found her way to this place, to rest there peacefully, 
but by causing her to scrutinise everything with ad- 
miration, He wearies and disquiets her in ways no less 
pleasant than marvellous. In a following verse, the 
Spouse beautifully expresses these two characteristics of 
such contemplation, viz., delight and restlessness, where 
she confesses that whilst she sleeps her heart watches. 
For she thus signifies that, although she enjoys rest in 
this sleep of a most blissful transport and tranquil ad- 
miration, she nevertheless endures fatigue in the watch- 
ing of her unquiet curiosity and in her painful activity. 
Hence blessed Job said : "If I be down to sleep, I 
shall say, when shall I rise ? And again I shall look 
for the evening." 

Do you not perceive, my brethren, from these words, 
that sometimes the holy soul wishes to decline such 
bitter-sweets, if I may use the expression, and again 
experiences a revival of appetite for the same sweet- 
bitters ? * For had that slumber of contemplation 
completely satisfied her, she never would have asked, 
" When shall I rise ? " And, on the contrary, she 

* " Molesta suavitas . . . suavis molestia." Compare with 
this what St. Teresa says about the " Wound of Love " or the 
" Anguish of Love," Int. Castle, 6th Mans., ch. xi. — (Translator.) 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 249 

never would have looked forward to the hour of restful 
prayer, viz., to the evening, were it entirely distasteful. 
No bedchamber of the King, therefore, can this place 
be, since the soul therein is not permitted to enjoy 
perfect repose. 

There is another place, whence is kept an immutable 
watch over the reprobate rational creatures, by the 
just vengeance, as severe as it is secret, of the most 
righteous Judge, " terrible in His counsels over the 
sons of men." Here the trembling soul beholds the 
Almighty, by a just but hidden judgment, refusing 
both to pardon the evil and to accept the good works 
of the wicked,* and, moreover, hardening their hearts, 
lest perchance they should become contrite, enter into 
themselves, be converted, and He should heal them. 

* The Saint is evidently speaking of obstinately impenitent 
sinners, for no Christian would say, least of all St. Bernard, 
that pardon is ever refused to the truly contrite. He is, there- 
fore, but repeating here what he said in the first of these ser- 
mons, that without the keeping of the commandments no work 
is good or acceptable. It would also be a great mistake to con- 
clude from what is here said that the holy Preacher held any 
theory of absolute predestination, according to which God has 
from all eternity immutably determined the number of the 
elect, independently of His prevision of merit or demerit. Such 
a doctrine would be in manifest contradiction with his plain 
teaching elsewhere. Thus, in his treatise " On Grace and Free 
Will," cap. ix., we read, " The rational creature, by the prero-l 
gative of his liberty, has been made, to some extent, the master! 
of his own destinies, so that ix is only by his own free will hej 
becomes wicked and is justly condemned, or perseveres in gooa 
and merits salvation. . . . The merciful Father, Who wills to 
save all, nevertheless judges none worthy of salvation, whom 
He has not already proved willing to be saved." Also, cap. i., 
" The will is said to co-operate with grace by consenting. 
And salvation consists in this consent." These passages also 
show that St. Bernard knew nothing of i ntrins ically efficacious 
grace. — (Translator.) ^r — ■ *— — — — 



\ 



\ 



250 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

And this not without a determinate and eternal decree, 
which is manifestly all the more frightening on account 
of its being unchangeably fixed from everlasting. Very 
terrifying, indeed, is that which we read in the Prophet 
Isaias, where God says, speaking to His angels, " Let 
us have pity on the wicked." And then, to their trem- 
bling question, " Will he not therefore learn justice ? " 
He answers, " No," and He gives the reason : " In the 
land of the saints, he hath done wicked things, and he 
shall not see the glory of the Lord." Be afraid, ye 
clerics, tremble, ye ministers of the Church, who in the 
lands of the saints, which you have gotten into your 
possession, are doing such "wicked things," that, far 
from being content with the stipend which ought to 
satisfy you, you impiously and sacrilegiously keep for 
yourselves the superfluities that should go to the sup- 
port of the indigent, shamelessly squandering the patri- 
mony of the poor on the gratification of your own 
pride and luxury. Thus, you contract the guilt of a 
twofold iniquity, by robbing others of their property, 
and by abusing sacred things, which you make to sub- 
serve your vanity and wickedness. 

Since, therefore, He Whose " judgments are a great 
deep " is here beheld showing mercy and compassion 
in time to such transgressors, but only to the end that 
He may not spare them in eternity, who would 
seek rest in this place ? The vision is better calculated 
to inspire one with the terror of judgment than to sug- 
gest the security of a bedchamber. Terrible in truth 
is this place, and entirely incompatible with the quiet 
of repose. I shudder all over, whenever I enter it, re- 
peating with trembling those terrifying words, " Mai 
knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred." 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 251 

And what wonder that I, who am but a leaf blown 
about by the wind, a dry straw, should there shake 
with fear, where even that greatest of contemplatives, 
the royal Psalmist, acknowledges that his "feet were 
almost moved, his steps had well-nigh slipt " ? And 
he adds, " Because I had a zeal on occasion of the 
wicked, seeing the prosperity of sinners." Wherefore ? 
Because " they are not in the labour of men ; neither 
shall they be scourged like other men. Therefore, 
pride hath held them fast," that they may not humble 
themselves unto penance, but be condemned for their 
pride with the proud demon and his angels. For they 
who "are not in the labour of men," shall certainly 
be in the labour of demons. This the Judge declares 
in His sentence, " Depart from Me, ye cursed, into 
everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and 
his angels." Nevertheless, even this is a place of God, 
surely " no other but the house of God and the gate 
of heaven." For here the Lord is said to be feared, 
here " His name is holy and terrible," and here assuredly 
" the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," as 
it were, the vestibule of His glory. 

Do not be surprised, my brethren, that I have ascribed 
the beginning of wisdom to this second place rather than 
to the first. For there do we indeed hear wisdom 
teaching of all things, as it were, in a lecture-hall ; 
but here we actually receive wisdom. There our minds 
are instructed, here our wills are affected. By being so 
instructed we become learned ; by being so affected we 
are made wise. As not all who are illumined by the 
light of the sun are also warmed by his heat, so wisdom 
enlightens many as to what they ought to do, without 
giving them at the same time the good will and dis- 




^WK 



252 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

position to do it. It is one thing to have knowledge 
of great riches, but quite another to have possession 
of the same ; for it is the possession of wealth and not 
the knowledge thereof that makes a man wealthy. In 
like manner, there is the greatest difference between 
knowing God and fearing Him ; nor are we made wise 
by the former, but only by the latter, which alone can 
influence our will. Surely, my brethren, you would not 
call him wise who is inflated with his science. And none 
but the most foolish would attribute wisdom to those 
who " when they knew God, have not glorified Him as 
God, nor given thanks." I, for my part, agree with the 
Apostle where he manifestly pronounces "their heart " 
to be " foolish." Justly is it said that " the fear of the 
Lord is the beginning of wisdom," because it is only then 
the soul begins to relish God, when she is inspired with 
the fear of Him, not when she is instructed in the knowl- 
edge of Him. You fear the divine justice, you fear 
the divine power, and hence, inasmuch as fear gives 
savour, you will relish God as wise and just. Further- 
more, relish makes a man wise,* as knowledge makes 
him learned, and riches wealthy. 

What, then, of the first place I have mentioned ? It 
only disposes to wisdom. There you are prepared for 
that wisdom of which you here obtain possession. This 
preparation consists in acquiring a knowledge of truth. 
But such knowledge most readily excites the swelling of 
vanity, unless it is repressed by fear, of which, therefore, 
it is truly said that " the fear of God is the beginning 
of wisdom," for it is the first to oppose itself to the 
pest of folly. In the first place, then, we are put on 
the road to wisdom, in the second we are introduced 

* " Sapor sapientem facit, lit scientia scientem." — (Translator.) 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 253 

to it. Yet in neither does the contemplative find perfect 
repose, because in the one God appears as if distracted 
with cares, and in the other as if enraged against sinners. 
Seek not, therefore, the King's bedchamber in either 
place, not in the former, which is rather the Teacher's 
lecture-hall, nor in the latter, which bears a closer re- 
semblance to the Judge's tribunal. But there is a third 
place, where the Lord appears truly tranquil and at rest. 
It is the place neither of the Judge nor of the Teacher, 
but of the Bridegroom, and which becomes for me, at 
least (whether for others, also, I know not), a real 
bedchamber, whenever it is granted me to enter there. 
But all too rare that privilege, alas ! and all too short- 
lived. There we can plainly see that " the mercy of 
the Lord is from eternity and unto eternity upon them 
that fear Him." And happy he who can say, " I am 
a partaker with all them that fear Thee, and that keep 
Thy commandments." The purpose of God stands fixed, 
as well as His decree of mercy " upon them that fear 
Him," overlooking what is evil in them and rewarding 
what is good, and with admirable wisdom bringing it 
about that not alone what is good, but even what is 
evil shall " co-operate unto good for them." Oh, truly 
and alone " blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath 
not imputed sin." For there is no one * without sin, 

* These words of the holy Preacher, just as the sentence 
cited from St. Paul, are intended to be taken exceptis excipiendis 
— as expressing merely a moral universality. For to say nothing 
of our Lord, it is absolutely certain that St. Bernard taught 
that throughout her whole life the Blessed Virgin was free from 
all sin, both original and actual. He has indeed been repre- 
sented as an opponent of the doctrine of her Immaculate Con- 
ception, because of a letter of his in which he reproves the 
Canons of Lyons for celebrating a feast in honour of that 
mystery, and moreover appears to deny any sanctity to the 



254 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

" because all have sinned and do need the glory of 
God." Yet " who shall accuse against the elect of 
God ? " It suffices me unto all justice, that He alone 
be propitious to me against Whom alone I have sinned. 
Whatever He wills not to impute to me, is as if it never 
had been. God's righteousness is freedom from sin, but 
the righteousness of man is the forgiveness of God. Such 
things I saw in this third place, and I then understood 
the truth of the words, " Whosoever is born of God com- 
mitteth not sin ; for His seed abideth in him, and he 
cannot sin, because he is born of God." That is to 
say, his heavenly generation preserves him. This 
heavenly generation is nothing else but eternal pre- 
destination, whereby God has loved His elect and made 
them pleasing in His sight in His own Beloved Son, 
before the foundation of the world, and so " they in 
the sanctuary have appeared before Him, to see His 

Conception itself. I shall answer in the words of Cardinal 
Manning : "It may be further proved (i) that the doctrine 
rejected by St. Bernard is a doctrine rejected by the Church 
at this time, viz., the supposition that the Immaculate Con- 
ception of the Blessed Virgin was a peculiarity arising from the 
order of nature, including her parents and even her ancestors 
within its range. (2) That the doctrine he taught under the 
name of the Immaculate Nativity, is in substance the doctrine 
of the Immaculate Conception as now denned by the Chinch — 
that the exemption of the Blessed Virgin from original sin was a 
peculiar and personal privilege, bestowed upon her alone, not 
by the order of nature, but in the order of grace, not through 
the mediation of parents, but by a direct infusion of the grace 
of the Holy Ghost into the soul at the first moment of its exist- 
ence. . . . With what joy would he (St. Bernard) not have hailed 
the authoritative definition of his own doctrine, perfect in 
identity of substance, only expressed with more scientific 
accuracy of mental and verbal analysis." This is the interpretation 
given to the Saint's words by B. Albert, St. Thomas, St. Bona- 
venture, Bellarmin, Perrone, and most moderns. Cf. Bellarmin, 
t. iv. 1. iv. c. xv.; and Hurter t. ii. n. 644. — (Translator.) 



'J** b. 



MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 255 

power and His glory," in order that they might be 
made participators in the inheritance of Him, to Whose 
image they have shown themselves conformed. I have 
therefore observed that these are as if they had never 
sinned, because whatever faults they may seem to 
have committed in time, none at all shall appear in 
eternity, for the Father's " charity covereth a multi- 
tude of sins." David called those blessed also " whose 
iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered." 
At the thought of this, I, even I, have suddenly ex- 
perienced such an infusion of confidence and joy as 
altogether exceeded the earlier emotion of fear, felt in 
the place of horrors, that is, in the place of the second 
vision. For it seemed to me that I was of the number 
of these blessed ones. Would to God that my happi- 
ness had been lasting ! Again, O Lord, again, " visit 
me with Thy salvation, that I may see the good of 
Thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the joy of Thy nation." 
O place of true rest, and, in my opinion, well deserv- 
ing to be called a bedchamber ! For we do not here 
behold God either, as it were, excited with anger, or 
as if distracted with care ; but His will is proved to be 
" good and acceptable and perfect." This vision soothes 
instead of terrifying. It lulls to rest, instead of arousing, 
our unquiet curiosity. It calms the mind instead of 
fatiguing it. Here is found perfect repose. The tran- 
quillity of God tranquillises all about Him, and the 
contemplation of His rest is rest to the soul. Here we 
behold Him as a King, Who, after spending the day in 
hearing and judging causes in His tribunal, now, in the 
evening quiet, dismisses the multitudes, and laying aside 
all disturbing cares, retires to His royal residence for 
the night, and enters His bedchamber with a few friends, 



256 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

whom He condescends to honour with this privilege of 
special familiarity. Here we may see Him taking His 
rest with equal security and privacy. Here we behold 
Him looking all the more serene because He perceives 
around Him only the faces of those whom He loves. 
If, my brethren, it should ever be the lot of any of you 
to be so transported for a time into this secret sanctuary 
of God, and there so rapt and absorbed as to be dis- 
tracted or disturbed by no necessity of the body, no 
importunity of care, no stinging of conscience, or, what 
is more difficult to avoid, no inrush of corporeal images 
from the senses or the imagination, such a one can 
truly say, " The King hath brought me into His bed- 
chamber." But I would not rashly affirm that this is 
the bedchamber whereof the Spouse boasts. Still it is 
a bedchamber, and a bedchamber of the King, because 
of the three places, to which I have assigned the three 
visions, only this " place is in peace." For, as I have 
shown, very little rest is enjoyed in the first, where the 
Lord, by showing Himself admirable, exercises our 
curiosity in the labour of inquiry ; and none at all in 
the second, because He here appears so terrible as to 
overpower with fear our mortal infirmity. But in this 
third place, He deigns to reveal Himself not so terrible, 
not so admirable, as amiable, as serene, as tranquil, 
as " sweet and mild and plenteous in mercy to all that " 
gaze upon Him. 

Now, to facilitate the retention of all that I have 

said in this lengthy discourse, I will repeat it in brief 

summary. Remember, then, the three times, the three 

I merits, and the three rewards. Observe the times in 

/ connexion with the garden, the merits in the storeroom, 

and the rewards in the threefold contemplation of him 






MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE GARDEN 257 

who seeks the King's bedchamber. I have already said 
quite enough about the storeroom. As concerning the 
garden and the bedchamber, if anything occurs to me 
that ought to be added or to be presented in a different 
way, you shall have it in its proper place. Otherwise 
you must be satisfied with what you have heard now, 
for I will not make any repetition, lest, which God 
forbid, that should engender weariness, which is spoken 
solely to the praise and glory of the Bridegroom of the 
Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is over all, God 
blessed for ever. Amen. 



i. 



SERMON XXIV 

On Detraction and the Necessity of uniting Faith 
with Good Works. 

" The righteous love thee." 

At length, my brethren, and for the third time, I 
have come back to you from Rome. And this my last 
return has been attended with more auspicious omens, 
and more manifest indications of heaven's good- will. 
For the Lion has ceased to rage, the power of evil has 
passed away, and peace has been restored to the Church . 
" In her sight is brought to nothing the malignant," who, 
for nearly eight years, kept her in a state of turmoil and 
confusion with his fearful schism. But shall it be to 
no purpose that I am brought back to you from such 
great dangers ? No, my brethren, since I have been re- 
stored to your desires, I am willing and ready to help 
you along in your spiritual advancement. As I owe 
my life to the merit of your prr.yers, so I wish to live 
only for your interests and your salvation. Since, 
therefore, it is your desire that I should resume my 
lectures on the Canticle, begun so long ago, I willingly 
consent. But I judge it better to repeat and complete 
the last sermon,* which I was forced to break off, 

* This sermon, as it is given here, was preached in the year 
1 1 38, after the Saint's return from Italy. We learn from the 
introduction that it had been interrupted during a previous 
delivery, the Preacher, apparently, having cut short his dis- 
course to obey an urgent summons from his ecclesiastical 

258 



ON DETRACTION 259 

than to enter upon something altogether new. Yet ] 
am afraid that my mind, so long distracted and pre- 
occupied with cares, as unworthy as they were various, 
is not in a condition to handle this subject in a manner 
befitting its dignity. " But what I have I give you. " 
And to my faithful service God will be able to add 
that which I have not, in order that I may transmit 
it to you. In case He should not, then, let my intelli- 
gence be censured, not my good- will. 

We have to begin, I think, with the words, " The 
righteous love thee." But before proceeding to explain 
what they mean I must consider to whom they belong, 
that is, who is the speaker. For the commentator is 
jj expected to supply what the inspired author has passed 
over in silence. Perhaps, then, I had better assign 
these words to the " young maidens," and regard them 
ps a continuation of the foregoing. For after saying, 
no doubt, to their mother, the Spouse, " We will be 
[glad and rejoice in thee, remembering thy breasts more 
than wine," they went on and added this also, " The 
righteous love thee." As I suppose, they did so on 
account of some of their own number, who, whilst seem- 
ing to run with the others, yet entertained far different 
sentiments, seeking the things that were their own, not 
walking with simplicity or sincerity, but envying their 

superiors. This accounts for the fact that some editions give 
87 sermons on the Canticles, the interrupted and the repeated 
discourses being reckoned as two. But even where these are 
given as one, there is a great diversity in the readings. The 
reason of this is that St. Bernard preached the sermon with 
different exordiums on the two occasions, and hence Editors 
who wished to combine them, had ample room for discrepancies. 
The "Lion" is, of course, the antipope, Anacletus II, Peter di 
;Leone, whose schism against Innocent II the Saint was mainly 
instrumental in bringing to a close. — (Translator.) 



2 6o ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

mother's incommunicable glory, and taking occasion to 
murmur against her from the fact that she alone had 
been brought into the storehouses. What is this but the 
same which the Apostle refers to as " perils from false 
brethren " ? These are the persons whose reproaches 
presently oblige the Spouse to justify herself, when she 
answers them thus, " I am black but beautiful, O ye 
daughters of Jerusalem." It is, therefore, because of 
those who censure and calumniate her, that the good, 
the simple, the humble, and the meek " young maidens " 
sav to their mother, in order to console her, J he 
righteous love thee." " Pay no heed," they tell her, 
"to the wicked reprehensions of these censorious ones, 
because the righteous love thee." There is certainly a 
sweet consolation in the consciousness that we possess 
the love of the virtuous, when, whilst doing good, we 
are maligned by the wicked. The esteem of the good, 
combined with the testimony of our own conscience, is 
sufficient to " stop the mouth of them that speak 
wicked things." " In the Lord shall my soul be praised; 
let the meek hear and rejoice." " Let the meek rejoice 
says the Spouse. " Let me but please the meek, and 
patiently will I endure whatever reproaches the envy 
of the reprobate may hurl against me." 

It is in this sense, as it seems to me, that the young 
maidens " spoke the words, " the righteous love thee. 
Such an interpretation, at least in my judgment, has 
the merit of being very reasonable and natural. For 
almost in every company of " young maidens some 
individuals are to be found who curiously examine the, 
conduct of the Spouse, but rather to discover matter 
for criticism than models for imitation. The virtues 
of their seniors are a source of bitter grief to sue* 



ON DETRACTION 261 

whereas they are eager to feed their minds on their 
failings. You may notice them going apart, meeting 
and sitting together, and then relaxing their insolent 
tongues to indulge in the detestable sin of murmuring. 
They are closely conjoined one with another, and they 
all but forget to breathe, in the ardour of their desire 
to hear and to speak detraction. They contract a 
friendship with a view to calumny ; they live in har- 
mony for the propagation of discord ; they form an 
alliance to wage war against fraternal charity ; and 
with an equal affection of concordant malignity they 
celebrate together the symposium of hate. It was thus 
Pilate and Herod acted of old, concerning whom the 
Evangelist narrates that they " were made friends on that 
same day," namely, on the day of the Lord's Passion. 
" When (they) come together, therefore, into one place, 
it is not now to eat the Lord's Supper," but rather to 
drink themselves and to give others to drink of the 
"chalice of devils." And whilst the tongues of some 
communicate the poison which brings souls to a state 
of perdition, the minds of others welcome the spiritual 
death that enters through their ears. Thus, according to 
Jeremias, " death is come up through our windows," 
whilst with itching ears and restless tongues, we are 
busy in ministering to each other the deadly cup of 
detraction. Oh, let not my soul have part in the council 
of slanderers, since they are objects of hatred to God, 
as the Apostle bears witness, saying that detractors 
are " hateful to God." And hear how the Lord Himself, 
speaking in the Psalms, confirms this : " The man," He 
says, " that in private detracted his neighbour, him did 
I persecute." 
This, my brethren, should not surprise us, since 



262 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

detraction is recognised to be more particularly and 
more directly opposed and irreconcilably antagonistic 
to charity, which is God, than any of the other vices, as 
you yourselves may take notice. For whoever commits 
a sin of detraction proves in the first place that he 
is himself void of charity. What other motive can 
such an offender have except to bring him whom he 
slanders into hatred and contempt with his hearers ? 
The detracting tongue, moreover, wounds charity in all 
who listen to it, and, as far as depends on it, utterly 
destroys and extinguishes that virtue. And not alone 
on those present has it this effect, but on the absent 
also, as many as the flying word may happen to reach 
through the agency of the listeners, who repeat what 
they have heard. Behold how easily and how speedily 
a countless number of souls can be infected with the 
deadly virus of this moral plague by the slanderous word 
that " runneth swiftly." Therefore, the Prophet says 
of detractors, " Their mouth is full of cursing and 
bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood," as swift, 
that is to say, as the " word " that " runneth swiftly." 
There is, perhaps, but one speaker, and he speaks but 
one word. And yet, that word, insinuating the poison 
through the ears, murders in a single moment the 
souls of a multitude of hearers. For the heart that is 
filled with the bitter venom of envy, can only send forth 
the bitterness of malice through the instrument of the 
tongue, according to the testimony of Christ, " Out of 
the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." 

There are different species of detractors. Some with- 
out shame or concealment spit forth the poison of this 
pestilence, according as it rises from the heart to the 
mouth. Others attempt to cover the malignity con- 



ON DETRACTION 263 

ceived in their minds and which they cannot keep in, 
under the mask of a pretended embarrassment. You 
may observe them beginning by heaving deep sighs. 
Then, slowly and solemnly, with melancholy counten- 
ance, with downcast looks and whining voice, they give 
free rein to their detracting tongues, and their slanders 
are received by the listener only the more unsuspectingly, 
the more evidently they appear to be spoken with re- 
luctance and to proceed from compassion rather than 
from malice. " It grieves me much," says one, " be- 
cause of my great love for him, that I have never been 
able to persuade so-and-so to give up such and such 
a fault." " One thing," says another, " is absolutely 
certain, namely, that nothing could ever have induced 
me to be the first to open my lips about this matter. 
But now that it has been made known by another, I 
cannot deny the fact. I am very sorry to have to 
admit that the report is true." And he adds, " It is a 
great pity. For in other respects he is an excellent 
man, but herein, I candidly confess, there is no excuse 
for him." 

Having said so much against this most malignant 
vice, I will now return to the order of my exposition, 
and I will try to explain whom, in this place, we are to 
understand by the " righteous." I do not suppose any 
sensible person will here understand this word in its 
original meaning, as signifying straight ness in material 
things, as if they who love the Spouse were the upright 
in body. Hence I have to understand and explain it 
of spiritual righteousness, that is, of the uprightness 
or rectitude of the heart and the mind. For it is the 
Spirit Who speaks, " comparing spiritual things with 
spiritual." It was, therefore, according to the soul, not 



264 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

according to the body, composed of the slime of earthy 
matter, that God made man upright, when " He created 
him to His own image and likeness." For "the Lord 
our God is righteous, and there is no iniquity in Him." 
Therefore, the righteous God made man righteous, 
like unto Himself. That is to say, He made man 
without iniquity, just as "there is no iniquity in Him." 
Moreover, iniquity is a vice, not of the flesh, but of the 
spirit. By this you may know that it is in your spiritual 
nature, not in your gross and material part, that the 
image of God has to be preserved or restored. For 
" God is a Spirit," and they who wish to retain or to 
recover their likeness to Him, must enter into their own 
hearts and apply themselves in spirit to that spiritual 
work. There " beholding the glory of the Lord with 
open face," they shall " be transformed into the same 
image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the 
Lord." 

Yet God also has given man the uprightness that 
characterises his bodily frame. And perhaps the reason 
of this was in order that such physical erectness of our 
exterior and baser element, might admonish our interior, 
spiritual man, who is made to God's image, of the ne- 
cessity of preserving spiritual uprightness, and that the 
beauty of the body might stand in reproachful contrast 
with the deformity of the soul. For what can be so in- 
congruous as to bear about a crooked mind in a straight 
body ? It is surely a shame and a monstrosity that, 
whilst this " earthy vessel," this material envelope, keeps 
its eyes lifted up from the earth, directs its looks to the 
heavens, and contemplates with delight the luminaries 
of the firmament, the rational soul, on the contrary, 
that spiritual and celestial creature, should bend her 



ON DETRACTION 265 

gaze to the ground, that is, should lower her internal 
faculties and affections to the level of material things, 
and, whereas she ought to be " brought up in purple," 
should attach herself to unworthy objects and " embrace 
the dung " as the filth-loving swine. Be ashamed, O 
my soul, of having thus exchanged the divine image 
for the brutish. Be ashamed of wallowing in filth, thou 
who art of heavenly origin. " O my soul," exclaims the 
body, "compare thyself with me and be confounded! 
Created righteous, like to thy Creator, thou hast ob- 
tained in me also a helper like to thyself, according to 
the analogy of corporeal uprightness. Whithersoever 
thou mayest turn thy gaze, whether to God above thee 
or to me below, ' for no man ever hated his own flesh,' 
on all sides thou dost behold various reflections of 
thine own beauty, everywhere in accordance with the 
dignity of thy position, thou art receiving friendly 
admonitions from the Spirit of wisdom. But whilst I 
have retained and preserved the prerogative of up- 
rightness bestowed upon me on thy account, what 
confusion ought to overwhelm thee for having lost 
thine ? Why must the Creator behold His own divine 
image effaced from thee, the while He contemplates 
thine preserved and constantly reproduced and ex- 
hibited in me ? Now thou hast turned to thine own 
confusion whatever help was due to thee from me. 
Changed from a rational to a brutal and bestial spirit, 
thou art unworthy any longer to inhabit a human body, 
and dost but abuse my service." 

Such deformed souls cannot love the Spouse, since, 
being of the world, they are not friends of the Bride- 
groom. " Whosoever," says St. James, " will be a 
friend of this world becometh an enemy of God." There- 



266 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

fore, it is deformity or curvature of soul to seek after 
and to relish " the things that are upon earth " ; whilst, 
on the contrary, spiritual uprightness consists in medi- 
tating and desiring "the things that are above." But, 
in order that this uprightness be perfect, it must be 
found not alone in the thoughts and the feelings of the 
mind, but also in external conduct harmonising there- 
with. So, I would call him perfectly upright whose 
mind is imbued with sound doctrine, and whose practice 
is in keeping with his principles. Let faith and conduct 
reveal to you the condition of the invisible soul. That 
soul you may consider as righteous which professes the 
Catholic faith and performs the works of justice. But 
if either faith or works be lacking, you need have no 
hesitation in pronouncing her to be deformed. For thus 
we read, " If thou rightly offerest and dost not rightly 
divide, thou hast sinned." We indeed " rightly offer " 
each of these two, faith and good works ; but we do 
not "rightly divide" one from the other. Do not, 
my brethren, be righteous offerers and unrighteous 
dividers. Why would you separate works from faith ? 
Such a separation is sinful and destroys the life of your 
faith, since " faith without good works is dead." And 
would you offer to the Lord a victim that is already 
dead ? For if charity be, so to speak, the soul of faith, 
what is that faith which " worketh " not " by charity " 
but a lifeless corpse ? Are you, then, doing well in 
honouring God with such a putrescent victim ? Are you 
doing well in trying to propitiate Him by offerirg Him 
the faith you have murdered ? How can that be a peace- | 
offering which is immolated with so much dreadful ; 
discord ? It is not surprising that Cain, after murder- | 
ing his faith, should rise up also against his brother. 



ON DETRACTION 267 

Why, O Cain, dost thou wonder that the Lord Who 
despises thyself has not regard to thy offerings ? Nor 
is it anything strange if He refuses to look upon thee, 
who art so divided in thyself. Why dost thou deliver 
up thy soul to envy, whilst thy hand is employed in 
the work of piety ? Thou canst not make peace with 
(rod so long as thou remainest at variance with thyself. 
Thou dost but further provoke instead of appeasing 
His anger, and if not yet indeed by impiously striking, 
at least by not rightly dividing. For thou art 
already a fideicide, viz., a slayer of thy faith, although 
not as yet a fratricide. Not even now canst thou be 
righteous when thy hand is extended to God, whilst 
at the same time envy and hatred of thy brother keep 
thy heart bent down to the earth. How can righteous- 
ness have place in thee, whose faith is dead, whose 
work is death, whose devotion is extinguished, whose 
bitterness is exceeding great ? The offerer, I allow, has 
faith, but his faith contains no vivifying love. The 
oblation is right, but cruel the division. 

The death of faith, my brethren, is its separation 
from charity. You believe in Christ. Then do the 
works of Christ, that your faith may live. Let your 
faith be animated by love, and its sincerity proved by 
virtuous actions. Do not stoop to the earth by worldly 
conduct, you whom a heavenly faith holds erect. You 
say that you abide in Christ. Therefore you " also 
ought to walk even as He walked." But if you seek 
your own glory, if you are jealous of the prosperity 
of others, if you speak evil of the absent, or retaliate 
injuries, in this you are not imitating Christ. To 
such false Christians I say : You proclaim by your 
words that you know God, and yet you deny Him 



268 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

by your deeds. Surely you have not acted well but 
wickedly in giving your tongues to Christ, and your 
hearts to the devil. Hear, therefore, what the Almighty 
says of such : " With their lips they glorify Me, but 
their heart is far from Me." No, you cannot be 
righteous, since you make so unrighteous a division. 
You are unable to lift up your heads, pressed down as 
they are by the yoke of Satan. Neither have you the 
power to draw yourselves erect, being " dominated by 
iniquity." For your " iniquities are gone over " your 
" head, and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon " 
you. For " Wickedness is seated upon the talent of 
lead," * according to the Prophet Zachary. You now 
understand that even right faith cannot make a man 
righteous unless it " worketh by charity." And he who is 
without charity has not wherewith to love the Spouse. 
But neither are works, however right, sufficient to 
render the heart righteous, without right faith. For 
who would call him righteous that is not pleasing to 
God ? But " without faith it is impossible to please 
God." He who is not pleasing to God cannot be pleased 
with God, since no one that is pleased with God can 
be displeasing to Him. Moreover, whoever is dis- 
pleased with God, shall also be displeased with His 
Spouse. In what way, then, can he be righteous, who 
loves neither God nor the Church of God ? For it is to 
the Church the "young maidens " say, " The righteous 
love thee." Since, therefore, neither faith without 

* The reference is to Zachary v. 7, 8. " And behold a talent of 
lead was carried, and behold a woman sitting in the midst of the 
vessel. And he said : This is wickedness. And he cast her 
into the midst of the vessel, and cast the weight of lead upon the 
mouth thereof." Either the Saint had a different reading, or 
else he is quoting freely. — (Translator.) 



ON DETRACTION 269 

works, nor works without faith are sufficient * for 
righteousness of soul, let us, my brethren, who have 
right faith in Christ, endeavour to make our ways and 
our wills also right. Let us lift up both our hearts and 
our hands to God that we may be found completely 
righteous, proving the rectitude of our faith by the 
righteousness of our actions. So shall we be lovers of 
the Bride, and the friends of the Bridegroom, Jesus 
Christ Our Lord, Who is over all things, God blessed 
for evermore. Amen. 



* This powerful vindication of Catholic doctrine was called 
for by the errors of Abelard, who not only denied the necessity 
of good works, to which he would allow no supernatural value, 
but also, by his deification of reason, made faith itself a super- 
numerary. Thus he was at once the precursor of the sixteenth 
century " Reformers," whose motto was " faith alone," and of 
our modern Indifferentists, who say to us, " do what you think 
right and don't worry about creeds." Cf . the Saint's " Tractatus 
de Erroribus Abaelardi," or Epistle 19°, addressed to Pope 
Innocent II. — (Translator.) 



SERMON XXV 

On the Blackness and the Beauty of the Bride- 
groom and the Bride. 

" / am black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem." 

You recollect, my brethren, what I said in my last 
discourse, that the Spouse is compelled to reply to the 
attacks of certain envious critics, who, in outward 
seeming, appear to belong to the company of " young 
maidens/' but in disposition and sentiment are far re- 
moved from them. She answers them with the words, " I 
am black, but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem." 
Evidently they had been maligning her, reproaching 
her with her blackness. But observe the patience and 
benignity of the Spouse. Not only does she not return 
insult for insult, but she even meets malediction with 
benediction, calling them " daughters of Jerusalem," 
who, for their malice, deserved to be called daughters 
of Babylon, or daughters of Baal, or any other oppro- 
brious name that might have occurred to her. Clearly, 
she has learned from the Prophet, or rather from the 
unction of grace which teaches mildness, that the 
" bruised reed " must not be broken, nor the " smoking 
flax" extinguished. She considered, therefore, that 
they who of themselves were sufficiently excited, should 
not be subjected to further provocation, nor have 
other irritants added to the torturing stings of envy. 
Rather she endeavoured to be " peaceful with them 

that hateth peace," knowing that she is a " debtor " 

270 



BLACKNESS AND BEAUTY OF BRIDE 271 

even " to the unwise. " Hence, she preferred to soothe 
them with words of gentleness, because she was more 
concerned to secure the salvation of these weaklings, 
than to avenge the wrong to herself. 

Such perfection, my brethren, should be the ambition 
of all. But it is especially the ideal after which all 
prelates are bound to strive. For good and faithful 
superiors are well aware that it is not dignity and 
pomp that have been committed to their charge, but the 
eternal salvation of weak and languishing souls. Hence, 
whenever they discover, by the symptom of a querulous 
voice, the internal discontent of any of these, although 
it be manifested by outbursts of reproachful and con- 
tumelious language against themselves, they realise 
that they are physicians rather than masters, and so 
instead of taking revenge, they immediately provide a 
remedy for this spiritual paroxysm. Here, then, is the 
reason why the Spouse calls her censureis " daughters 
of Jerusalem," after enduring their malevolence and 
malignity, in order, namely, with words of kindness, to 
appease their disaffection, to calm their agitation, and 
to cure their envy. For it is written, " A mild answer 
breaketh wrath." Nevertheless, in certain respects, 
such souls are really " daughters of Jerusalem," and the 
Spouse speaks truth in calling them so. For, on account 
of the sacraments of the Church, common to them 
with the good, on account of the common profession 
of Catholic faith, and the (at least, visible) communion 
with all the faithful, and the hope of heaven, with 
regard to which we must not despair of any, so long as 
they live, no matter how sinful their lives may be — for 
these reasons, I say, the Spouse is right in giving the 
title " daughters of Jerusalem " even to the malcontents. 



272 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Let us examine what she means by saying " I am 
black (in colour) but beautiful" (of form— fortnosa) . 
Is there a contradiction in these words, my brethren ? 
God forbid ! But I speak on account of the simple- 
minded, who are unable to distinguish between colour 
and form. Form has reference and relation to the com- 
position of bodies, whereas colour, such as blackness, 
belongs only to the superficies. Not everything, there- 
fore, which happens to be black is on this account alone 
to be considered as deformed. In the eye, for instance, 
black colour is not displeasing. Black stones have an 
agreeable effect in ornamentation. Black hair also en- 
hances the beauty and charm of a clear complexion. 
And your own experience will furnish you with innu- 
merable examples of the same. Countless are the things 
which, looking to their colour alone, you would pro- 
nounce unprepossessing, but which appear really beau- 
tiful in form. In this way, perhaps, the Spouse may 
combine with the loveliness of her form an unsightly 
defect of colour ; yet this can only be the case in the 
place of her pilgrimage. For the time shall come when, 
in the fatherland, her glorious Bridegroom will " present 
her to Himself a glorious Bride, not having spot or 
wrinkle, or any such thing." But if she said now that 
she has not blackness, she would deceive herself, and 
the truth would not be in her. Wherefore, my brethren, 
wonder not that she confesses her imperfection, saying, 
" I am black." Yet, at the same time, she boasts that 
she is beautiful. How, indeed, could she be otherwise, 
to whom the Bridegroom said, " Come, My beautiful 
one " ? But she who is invited to come, evidently has 
not yet arrived at her destination. So, perhaps, this 
word " come " is used lest we should think the epithet 



BLACKNESS AND BEAUTY OF BRIDE 273 

" beautiful " applies, not to the discoloured Spouse, who 
is still advancing laboriously on her way, but to that 
blessed one that reigns immaculate in heaven. 

But hear why she calls herself black, and why beau- 
tiful. Does she mean that she is black because of the 
benighted life she previously led under the power of 
the prince of darkness, whilst she still bore the image 
of the earthly man ; and that she is beautiful by reason 
of the heavenly similitude, into which she was after-' 
wards transformed, when she began to walk in newness 
of life ? But if so, why does she not say in the past 
tense, " I was black," rather than in the present, " I am 
black " ? If, nevertheless, any one of you be satisfied 
with this interpretation, with regard to what follows 
" as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon," it 
will be necessary to suppose that the Spouse compares 
herself to the " tents of Cedar " on account of her 
former evil life, and to the " curtains of Solomon " on 
account of her present sanctity. Tents and curtains 
sometimes mean the same in the Scriptures, as in that 
passage of Jeremias where he says, " My tents are de- 
stroyed on a sudden, and my curtains in a moment. " 
According to this sense, therefore, she was black, at 
first, like the hideous tents of Cedar, but later on she 
became beautiful as the splendid curtains of the King. 
Let us now see whether both her blackness and her 
beauty cannot be explained with reference to her later 
and reformed life. If we consider the exterior of the 
saints, that aspect of them which strikes our senses, 
how lowly and abject they appear, how wretched and 
contemptible ! And yet they are all the while most 
admirable in their interior, and " beholding the glory 
of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the 



274 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the 
Lord." Does it not seem to you, my brethren, that 
every such soul can truly reply to those who taunt her 
with her blackness, "lam black but beautiful"? 
Would you like me to show you one of these souls, at 
once black and beautiful ? " His epistles indeed, they 
say, are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence 
is weak and his speech contemptible." This was St. 
Paul. " O ye daughters of Jerusalem," do you thus 
judge St. Paul by his " bodily presence," and despise 
him as discoloured and deformed, because you perceive 
him to be a man of diminutive stature, and afflicted 
" in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in many 
more labours, in stripes above measure, in deaths 
often " ? For these are the things that make him 
black. It is because of these that the Doctor of Nations 
is reputed inglorious, ignoble, discoloured, obscure, as 
the " offscouring of all." Yet is not he the one that 
was rapt up to paradise, who, passing through the 
first and the second, penetrated, "by reason of his 
purity," even to the third heaven ? 

O truly most beautiful soul, which, although dwelling 
in a weak little body, is yet so honoured as to be ad- 
mitted to the vision of the celestial loveliness, neither 
rejected by angelic magnificence, nor repelled by the 
Divine Glory ! And do you caU such a soul black ? 
She is " black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jeru- 
salem." She is black in your judgment, but beautiful 
in the estimation of God and of His angels. And, 
although black, she is so only in her exterior. But to 
St. Paul " it is a very small thing to be judged by 
you," or by those who judge " according to the face." 
For man "looketh on the face, but God regardeth the; 



BLACKNESS AND BEAUTY OF BRIDE 275 

heart." Therefore, even if his exterior is black, he is 
yet beautiful interiorly ; so that he is pleasing to Him 
to Whom he has striven to approve himself, although 
not to you, for if he still pleased you he would not be a 
servant of Christ. O blessed blackness, which begets 
in us whiteness of soul, luminousness of knowledge, 
and purity of conscience ! 

Hear what God promises, through His Prophet, to 
persons "black" with this kind of blackness, who 
appear to be discoloured by the humility of penance, 
or by the fervour of charity, as if by the scorching 
heat of the sun. "If your sins be as scarlet they 
shall be made as white as snow ; if they be as red as 
crimson, they shall be white as wool." Surely, then, 
we ought not to despise in the saints this outward 
blackness which becomes the source of interior bright- 
ness, and so prepares in the soul the seat of wisdom. 
For, according to the Wise Man, wisdom " is the bright- 
ness of eternal life." Hence, truly bright must that 
soul be which she chooses for her seat. But since we 
know that " the soul of the just man is the seat of 
wisdom," I am safe in concluding that the soul of the 
just man must be also bright and luminous. Indeed, 
it is likely enough that justice and spiritual brightness 
mean the same thing. Now, St. Paul was just, since for 
him was " laid up a crown of justice." Therefore there 
can be no doubt that his soul was bright, and therein was 
seated wisdom, so that he could " speak wisdom amongst 
the perfect," " wisdom hidden in a mystery, which none 
of the princes of this world knew." Moreover, this 
brightness of wisdom and justice in him, was either 
produced or merited by the external blackness of his 
'bodily presence," and his "much watch ings " and 



276 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

his "fastings often. " Consequently, even the very 
blackness of St. Paul is far more precious and attractive 
than any degree of external beauty, than all the pomp 
and glory of earthly kings. Not to be compared with 
it is any comeliness of mortal flesh, any fairness of a 
skin destined as fuel for the flames, any loveliness of 
a delicately-tinted complexion, soon to be the spoil of 
death and putrefaction, any magnificence of dress liable 
to the corrupting influence of age, any splendour of 
gold and precious stones, or of anything else that passes 
away with time. 

Good reason have the saints, therefore, for devoting 
and giving themselves up with all diligence to the 
business of caring for and embellishing the inward man, 
who is made to the image of God and M renewed day by 
day " ; whilst they contemptuously refuse any adorn- 
ment or superfluous attention to their outward man 
" who is corrupted." For they feel convinced that 
nothing can be so acceptable to God as His own image, 
provided it has been restored to its original beauty. 
Therefore, " all " their " glory is within," not outside, 
that is to say, not in the flower of the field, or in the 
mouths of the multitude, but in the Lord. Hence do 
they say, " This is our glory, the testimony of our 
conscience," because the only witness of their con- 
science is God, Whom alone they desire to please, and 
in pleasing Whom the only true and sovereign glory 
consists. Certainly, no small glory is that which is 
within, in which even the Lord of glory disdains not 
to glory, as David tells us when he says, " All the 
glory of the King's daughter is within." Besides, each 
one's glory is all the more secure, the more he possesses 
it within himself, and not in another. However, it is 



BLACKNESS AND BEAUTY OF BRIDE 277 

not alone in the interior brightness, but also in the 
exterior blackness that there is found occasion for 
glorying, lest anything in the saints should go for loss, 
but that all things might "co-operate unto good " for 
them. Hence we see them glorying in tribulations as 
as well as in hope. " Gladly," says the Apostle, " will 
I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may 
dwell in me." O infirmity worthy to be desired with 
all ardour, which is compensated for by the power of 
Christ ! Who will grant me not only to be infirm, but 
to be utterly forsaken and abandoned by my own 
strength and my own power, in order that I may be 
propped up by the power and strength of the " Lord 
of virtues " ! For " power is made perfect in infirmity," 
as Christ bears witness. Hence St. Paul could affirm, 

1 When I am weak, then am I powerful." 

This being so, the Spouse most skilfully turns to her 
own glory what her censurers taunted her with as a 
reproach, boasting not only of her beauty, but also 
of her blackness. For she is not ashamed of this black- 
ness, knowing that the same kind of blackness appeared 
even in her Bridegroom. And what matter for glory- 
ing it is to be assimilated to Him ! Therefore, in her 
eyes there can be nothing so glorious as to " bear the 
reproach of Christ." Hence that " voice of exultation 
and of salvation," " God forbid that I should glory 
save in the cross of my Lord, Jesus Christ." The 
ignominy of the cross is gratifying to him who is not 
ungrateful to the Crucified. It is blackness indeed, 
but it is also the image and likeness of the Lord. Go 
to the Prophet Isaias, and he will describe for you how 
he beheld Him in spirit. For whom but Christ does 

he call the " Man of sorrows and acquainted with 



278 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

infirmity," adding that " there is no beauty in Him 
nor comeliness " ? And he goes on, " And we have re- 
puted Him, as it were, a leper, and as one struck by 
God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our in- 
iquities, He was bruised for our sins, and by His bruises 
we are healed." Behold what makes Him black ! Add 
to this the testimony of holy David, " Beautiful in form 
above the sons of men," and you will have verified in 
the Bridegroom all that the Spouse witnesses of herself 
when she says, " I am black but beautiful." 

Does it not, then, seem to you, my brethren, that 
according to what has been said, He also could have 
replied to the Jews who reproached Him, " I am black 
but beautiful, O ye " sons " of Jerusalem." Black 
assuredly was He in Whom there was " no beauty nor 
comeliness." Black also as being " a worm and no 
man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people." 
Again, why should I be afraid to call Him black Who 
even made Himself " sin," as the Apostle declares ? 
Lastly, contemplate Him, clad in a ragged and dirty 
mantle, livid with wounds, defiled with spittle, pale with 
the pallor of death, and surely now at least you will 
acknowledge Him to be black. Then question the 
apostles as to the appearance He presented on the 
mountain ; or ask the angels what is it that makes them 
desire to gaze upon Him, and you will doubtless marvel 
at what they shall tell you of His beauty. Therefore, He 
is beautiful in Himself, but black for our sakes. Yet 
even in Thy Human Form, according to which Thou 
art my Brother, how beautiful Thou art to me, O Lord 
Jesus ! Not because of the mighty miracles of Thy 
divine power, which render Thee so illustrious, but " on 
account of Thy truth, and Thy meekness, and Thy 



BLACKNESS AND BEAUTY OF BRIDE 279 

justice." Blessed is the man who diligently studies 
Thee conversing as a Man amongst men, and endeavours 
to imitate Thee in the practice of these virtues, to the 
utmost of his power ! Already has Thy " beautiful 
one " obtained this part of her beatitude, the first fruits, 
as it were, of her dowry, being neither slow to copy what 
is beautiful in Thee, nor ashamed to participate in the 
sufferings which make Thee black. For this reason 
also she said, " I am black but beautiful, O ye daughters 
of Jerusalem." And she added the comparisons, " as the 
tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon." But these 
latter expressions are obscure, and we are too weary 
now to enter upon their exposition. You shall therefore 
have an opportunity for " knocking " by prayer at the 
door of Wisdom. If you knock sincerely, there is One 
Who will come to open for you these mysteries. Nor will 
He delay to open, since it is He Himself Who invites 
you to knock. For He it is that " openeth and no man 
shutteth," the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus Christ, 
Our Lord, Who is blessed for evermore. Amen. 



SERMON XXVI 

In what sense the Blackness of the Spouse is 
compared to the tents of cedar — the saint's 
Lament over his Brother. 

"As the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon." 

" As the tents of Cedar, as the curtains * of Solomon." 
Here, my brethren, I have to begin to-day, where 
yesterday's sermon ended. And you expect me now 
to explain these words of the Spouse, as well as the 
manner of their connexion with the text of my last 
discourse, " I am black but beautiful," with which they 
express a double comparison. As for the connexion, it 
may be considered in either of two ways. Both com- 
parisons may be referred to the first clause of the fore- 
going, viz., " I am black." Or we may take the first 
and second comparisons, namely, that of the tents of 
Cedar, and that of the curtains of Solomon, as re- 
lating, respectively, to the first and second parts of 
the sentence, " I am black, but beautiful." The former 
interpretation possesses the advantage of greater sim- 
plicity and clearness. However, I mean to try both. 
And I will begin with the latter, which appears to be 
the more difficult. As a matter of fact, the only diffi- 
culty is to see what the " pavilions of Solomon " have 

* " Pdles " = " skins," hence " curtains," which is the Douay 
version. But these curtains must be taken to mean the covering 
of tents or pavilions. Thus the same word is rendered "pavilion " 
by the same Translators, Ps. ciii. 2. — (Translator.) 

280 . 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 281 

in common with beauty ; for the connexion between 
Cedars and blackness will be sufficiently patent to all, 
when it is remembered that the word "Cedar," in the 
Hebrew, signifies darkness. It is also evident that 
"tent " or "tabernacle " can here be taken in a con- 
sonant sense. For what are these tents but the bodies 
in which we sojourn ? " For we have not here a lasting 
city, but we seek for one that is to come." We also 
carry on war in them, as in tents, using " violence " in 
order " to bear away the kingdom." Hence Job tells us 
that " the life of man upon earth is a warfare." And 
" whilst we " fight " in this body, we are absent from 
the Lord," that is, from the Light. For "the Lord is 
the Light." Therefore, the more we are absent from 
Him, waging war in the tents of our bodies, the more 
are we in darkness, that is to say, in Cedar. Conse- 
quently, every such exile ought to make his own that 
tearful cry, "Woe is me that my sojourning is pro- 
longed ! I have dwelt with the inhabitants of Cedar ; 
my soul hath been long a sojourner." Hence, this 
dwelling of our body is not to be regarded as the resi- 
dence of a citizen, nor as the home of a native, but 
either as the tent of a soldier, or the inn of a traveller. 
Yes, I repeat it : this body is but a tent, which by its 
opaqueness, so to speak, shuts out from the soul, during 
her sojourn on earth, the gladdening influence of the 
circumambient Light, permitting it to see that Light 
only "through a glass " and " in a dark manner," but 
not yet " face to face." 

Would you like to know, my brethren, the cause of 
the Church's blackness and the reason why a certain 
amount of rust still adheres even to the most beautiful 
souls ? I will tell you. It is all due, beyond question, to 



282 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

these tents of Cedar, to the prosecution of a laborious 
war, to the prolongation of their miserable sojourning, 
to the bitterness of their painful exile, to the weakness 
and yet oppressiveness of the body ; " for the corrupt- 
ible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habi- 
tation presseth down the mind that museth upon many 
things." Wherefore, they even "desire to be dis- 
solved," that, being delivered from the body, they may 
fly to the embraces of Christ. Hence the cry of one 
such afflicted soul, " Unhappy man that I am, who 
will deliver me from the body of this death ? " Souls 
like this know very well that so long as they abide in 
the tents of Cedar, their purity cannot be altogether 
free from every spot and stain, from every shade 
of blackness. And so they long for dissolution, in order 
to be delivered perfectly from such defilements. This 
is the reason why the Spouse declared herself to be as 
black as the " tents of Cedar." 

But in what sense is she " beautiful as the curtains 
of Solomon " ? It seems to me, my brethren, that 
there is wrapt up in these curtains something I know 
not what, of such sublimity and sanctity that most cer- 
tainly I would not presume to expose it at all, except 
at the bidding of Him Who hid it there and sealed 
it. For I have read that "he that is a searcher of 
majesty shall be overwhelmed by glory." I will 
wait, therefore, and procrastinate. Do you, mean- 
time, as usual, impetrate by your prayers the light 
and grace of the Holy Spirit, that with desires inten- 
sified in proportion to our confidence, we may return 
to this subject, which demands more than ordinary 
attention. And perhaps the devout suppliant will 
discover what would be missed by the rash inquirer. 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 283 

In any case, grief at the calamity which has befallen 
us will not allow me to continue. 

How * long shall I dissemble ? How long shall I 
endeavour to conceal within myself the fire which con- 
sumes my broken heart and devours my very vitals ? 
A secret flame creeps forward more freely, and more 
cruelly rages. What have I to do with this Canticle 
of love, submerged as I am in an ocean of bitterness ? 
The vehemence of my grief draws away my attention, 
and the anger of the Lord has drunk up my s^ul. For 
" my heart hath forsaken me," since he is gone who 
used to leave me, in some sense, free for divine con- 
templation. But I have done violence to my feelings. 
I have striven to conceal my sorrow until now, afraid 
lest perhaps it should seem that faith had succumbed 
to natural affection. Therefore, whilst all others wept, 
I alone, with tearless eyes, followed the cruel bier, as 

* This magnificent threnody, the impetuous outpouring of 
an overcharged heart, must be rea I in the original to be fully 
appreciated. It was delivered in n 38. In the judgment of 
Dom Rivet (Hist. Litter., t. 10, pref.) nothing equal to it has 
appeared in the Latin language since the Augustan Age, if we 
except the two funeral orations on St. Malachy, by the same 
author. Pierre Beringer of Poitiers, to avenge the defeat of his 
master, Abelard, at the hands of St. Bernard, had the impu- 
dence to accuse the holy abbot of stealing certain passages from 
St. Ambrose. But the charge has been triumphantly refuted 
by the illustrious Mabillon. And if some expressions appear 
to us to be extravagant, we must bear in mind that St. Bernard, 
as we learn from his biographers, was gifted with an extra- 
ordinarily affectionate heart, and scarcely ever attended a 
funeral without shedding tears. This should aLo show us 
how utterly false is the notion entertained by many, viz., that 
sanctity tends to blunt our natural sensibilities. Grace does not 
destroy but rather perfects nature, and it remains always true 
that to be a holy man is to be wholly a man. The lessons for 
the feast of Blessed Gerard in the Cistercian Breviary are taken 
from this sermon. — (Translator.) 



284 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

you can yourselves bear witness. With tearless eyes I 
stood at the graveside until the last sad rites were all 
accomplished. Vested in my priestly robes, I pro- 
nounced with my own lips the usual prayers over the 
remains. With my own hands I sprinkled clay, ac- 
cording to custom, over my beloved Gerard's body, 
soon to be changed itself to clay. They that watched 
me were weeping, and they wondered why I did not 
weep myself, although he was less the object of uni- 
versal compassion than was I, who had been bereaved 
of him. For surely harder than iron must the heart 
have been that would not melt to see me surviving 
Gerard. His death was a common calamity, but this 
was reckoned as nothing in comparison with the per- 
sonal loss to me. I tried to resist my sorrow with all 
the force I could gather from faith, striving to suppress 
even those vain involuntary emotions, occasioned by 
what is, after all, but our natural destiny, the debt of 
our mortality, the necessity of our condition, the or- 
dinance of the Mighty One, the judgment of the Just 
One, the scourge of the Terrible One. Such reflections 
led me to restrain myself constantly, then and to the 
present, from overmuch weeping, whilst all the time 
I felt exceedingly sad and afflicted. For although I 
could control my tears, I had not the same power over 
my sorrow ; but as it is written, u I was troubled and 
I spoke not." But pent-up grief strikes its roots the 
more deeply within, becoming the more bitter, as I 
believe, from the fact that it is refused an outlet. My 
brethren, I have to acknowledge myself vanquished. I 
must now give vent to my interior anguish. I must 
exhibit my distress to the eyes of my children, that, 
realising its magnitude, they may think more kindly 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 285 

thoughts of my affliction and more sweetly console 
me. 

You know, O my children, you know how reasonable 
is my sorrow, how worthy of tears is the loss I have 
sustained. For you understand how faithful a com- 
panion has been taken from my side " in the way in 
which I was walking." You know what was his atten- 
tiveness to duty, his diligence at work, his sweetness 
and amiability of character. Who was so indispensable 
to me ? By whom was I so much beloved ? He was 
my brother by blood, but more my brother by religious 
profession. Oh, pity my lot, you to whom these things 
are known ! I was weak in body, and he supported 
me. I was pusillanimous, and he encouraged me. I 
was slothful and negligent, and he spurred me on. I 
was improvident and forgetful, and he acted as my 
monitor. Oh, whither hast thou been taken from me ? 
Why hast thou been torn from my arms, " a man of 
one mind," " a man according to my heart " ? We 
have loved each other in life, how then is it that we are 
separated in death ? O most cruel divorce, which only 
death could have power to cause ! For when in life 
wouldst thou have so deserted me ? Yes, it is unmis- 
takably the work of death, this most woeful separation. 
For what but death, that enemy of all things sweet, 
would not have spared the sweet bond of our mutual 
love ? With good reason is that called death and a 
double death, which in its rage has slain two in carrying 
off one. Has not that separation been death to me also ? 
Yea, and especially to me, for whom is preserved a 
life more bitter than any death. For I live indeed, but 
only to endure a living death. And shall I call such an 
existence life? O unfeeling death, how much kinder 



286 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

it had been to deprive me of the possession of life than 
of its fruit ! For life without fruit is worse than death, 
since we are told that two evils, the axe and the fire, 
await the tree that bears no fruit. Therefore, through 
envy of my labours, "thou hast removed far from me 
my friend and my neighbour," to whose zeal was mainly 
due whatever fruit those labours yielded. Hence it 
were far better for me to have lost my life than thy 
company, O my brother, who wert the earnest stimu- 
lator of my studies in the Lord, my faithful helper, and 
my prudent counsellor. Why, I ask, have we been 
so united in brotherly love ? Or, so united, why so 
parted ? O most mournful lot ! But it is my fate 
that is pitiable, not his. For thou, sweet brother, if 
separated from thy dear ones, art now united to others 
still more dear. But what consolation remains now to 
wretched me, after losing thee, my only comfort ? Our 
bodily companionship was a source of enjoyment to 
both of us, on account of the conformity of our wills 
and sentiments, but I alone have suffered from our 
separation. The enjoyment was common, but I am 
left the monopoly of the sadness and the sorrow. 
" Wrath hath come upon me " ; " wrath is strong over 
me." Sweet was the presence of each to other, sweet 
our companionship, sweet our conversation. But whilst 
I have lost the happiness of us both, thou hast only 
exchanged it for better. For in this exchange "there 
is a great reward." 

With what usuary of delights, with what wealth of 
benedictions, art thou compensated for our absence 
to-day, O my dearest brother ! In return for my 
company, thou art now enjoying the presence of Christ. 
Nor canst thou deem it a loss to be separated from us, 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 287 

associated, as thou surely art, to the angelic choirs 
above. Thou, therefore, hast no cause to complain of 
thy separation from us, since the Lord of Majesty has so 
generously admitted thee to the society and fellowship 
of Himself and of His angels. But what have I ob- 
tained in place of thee ? How I should like to know 
what sentiments thou dost now entertain towards me, 
that " only one " of thine, distraught and overwhelmed 
as I am with sufferings and solicitudes, and bereft of 
thee, the staff of my weakness ! — if indeed it be per- 
mitted to one who has been plunged into the abyss of 
Light Divine, and submerged in the ocean of everlast- 
ing felicity, to concern himself still with his miserable 
friends on earth.* For, although thou didst formerly 
know us according to the flesh, perhaps now thou dost 
no longer know us. Perhaps, having " entered into 
the powers of the Lord," thou wilt henceforth " be 
mindful of justice alone," and forgetful of us. " But 
he who is joined to the Lord is one Spirit," and is com- 
pletely transformed into a sort of divine affection, so 
that, being filled with God, he can no longer take interest 
or pleasure in anything but God and in the things in 
which God takes interest and pleasure. Yet " God is 
charity," and the more closely the creature is united 
to Him, the more full he is of charity. Again, although 
God is not passible, He is yet compassionate, for to 
Him " it is proper to have mercy and to spare." There- 
fore, must thou, too, dearest brother, be merciful, since 
thou cleavest to One so merciful, even though misery has 

* Cf. Tennyson's address to his dead friend : — 

"And I, can clouds of nature stain 
The starry clearness of the free ? 
How is it ? Canst thou feel for me 
Some painless sympathy with pain ? " 



288 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

now no access to thee. Thou must still feel compassion, 
though suffer thou canst not. Hence, thy affection, far 
from failing, has but been transformed. In putting on 
God, thou has not put off thy care for us, because even 
" He hath care for us," as we learn from St. Peter. 
Thou hast laid aside only thy infirmity, not also thy 
piety. And as " charity never falleth away," thou wilt 
not " forget me unto the end." 

It seems to me that I hear my brother answering 
and saying, " Can a mother forget her infant so as 
not to have pity on the son of her womb ? And if she 
should forget, yet will not I forget thee." It surely 
is not expedient that I should be forgotten by thee. 
Thou knowest how I am situated, where I lie prostrate, 
in what a plight thou hast left me. And now there is 
none to reach me a helping hand. In every emergency I 
still, as was my wont, look around for Gerard, but he 
is nowhere to be seen. Then, alas ! I groan with misery, 
as " a man without help." Whom shall I henceforth 
consult in my doubts ? On whom shall I lean when 
misfortune overtakes me ? Who will bear my burdens ? 
Who will deliver me from dangers ? Were not my 
steps in every undertaking directed by the eyes of 
Gerard ? Was not my own breast, O Gerard, less in- 
timately acquainted with my cares than was thine, 
less frequently invaded, less sharply tormented ? With 
that persuasive and eloquent tongue of thine, how often 
hast thou saved me from the distraction of worldly 
discourses, and restored me to my dearly loved silence ! 
For the Lord had given him " a learned tongue," that 
he might know when he ought to utter speech. So, 
by the prudence of his answers, and by the grace given 
him from above, he gave such satisfaction both to his 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 289 

brethren and to strangers, that I might almost say 
nobody had ever any need to speak to me when Gerard 
had first been consulted. He would go to meet visitors, 
opposing himself as a rampart against their incursions, 
to prevent them from breaking in upon my leisure. If 
any there were whom he himself could not satisfy, these 
he conducted to me, sending the others away, contented. 
What shall I say of his wonderful industry ? Or what 
of his loyalty to his friends ? Well he knew both how 
to gratify his brother, and how to fulfil the duties of 
charity. Whom did he ever send away empty ? For the 
rich he had counsel, and for the poor relief. Surely he 
did not seek what was his own, who, in order to deliver 
me from care, was willing that himself should be over- 
whelmed with cares. For in his profound humility, he 
hoped to derive more abundant fruit from my leisure than 
from any studies of his own. Yet he sometimes begged 
to be removed from his office of procurator, and to be 
replaced by some other more worthy to fill it . But where 
was such a one to be found ? Nor was he attached to 
that office (as so often happens) by any inordinate 
affection, since he discharged its functions from the 
sole motive of charity ; and whereas he laboured more 
than any other, he received less than any other, so 
that often, whilst providing others with what they 
needed, he himself was wanting in many things ne- 
cessary, such as food and clothing. Hence, when he per- 
ceived the approach of death, " O God," he protested, 
'Thou knowest that, so far as depended on me, I 
have always desired solitude, to be at leisure to attend 
to Thee and to myself. But I have been forced to re- 
main in distracting occupations by the fear of Thee, 
by the will of my brethren, by the duty of obedience, 



290 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

and especially by my sincere affection for him who is 
at once my abbot and my brother." Such indeed was 
the case. Thanks to thee, my brother, for all the fruit 
(if there has been any) of my studies in the Lord. What- 
ever progress I have made myself, and whatever help I 
may have given to others, all is due to thee. Thou wert 
overburdened with temporal affairs whilst I, at thy 
expense, was enjoying repose, or at least occupied with 
the more sacred duties of the divine service, or with 
the more profitable employment of instructing my 
spiritual children. For how could I be otherwise than 
perfectly at ease within, when I knew that thou wert 
busying thyself without, as my own right hand, the 
light of my eyes, my heart and my tongue ? And 
indeed thou wert to me an unwearied hand, and a 
" simple eye," and a heart full of prudence, and a 
tongue speaking judgment, as it is written, " The mouth 
of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall 
speak judgment." 

But why have I spoken of his exterior employments, 
as if Gerard were inexperienced in the interior life, as 
if he were a stranger to spiritual gifts ? Those spiri- 
tual persons who knew him, knew also how redolent 
of the Spirit his words were. His brethren knew how 
his thoughts and his actions savoured not of the flesh, 
but were animated all with spiritual fervour. Who was 
more strict than he in the observance of the Rule ? 
Who more austere in bodily mortification, more rapt 
and exalted in divine contemplation, or more subtle 
and profound in discourse than was Gerard ? How 
often in discussion with him have I not learned truths 
which had hitherto escaped me ! And I, who had come 
as the teacher, went away as the one taught. Do not 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 291 

be surprised that this has been my experience, since 
even great and wise men testify that the same thing 
has happened to themselves in conversation with 
Gerard. He did not indeed possess book-learning, but 
he possessed the intelligence which is its source and 
author, and he also possessed the light of the Holy 
Spirit. Both in the greatest things and in the least 
he showed himself equally wise and resourceful. For 
instance, with regard to building operations, to agri- 
culture, to horticulture, to waterworks, indeed to all 
the different arts and trades which belong to country 
life — in all this variety of business was there any- 
thing, I ask, to which Gerard's skill and resource were 
not equal ? His universal knowledge of practical 
affairs enabled him easily to superintend the quarry- 
men, the workers in wood and iron, the farm-labourers, 
the gardeners, the shoemakers, and the weavers. Wisest 
of all in the estimation of each of his brethren, he still 
looked upon himself as altogether devoid of wisdom. 
Would to God that many, although less wise than he, 
were not more deserving of the malediction, " Woe to 
you that are wise in your own eyes " ! I am speaking 
to persons who are aware of all this. But I might say 
still more of him, and greater things than what is 
generally known. However, I will refrain, for he is 
my flesh and my brother. Yet this I confidently affirm, 
that to me he was useful in all things and in a degree 
beyond all others. He made himself useful in little 
things as in great, in private as in public, both at home 
and abroad. On him I depended wholly, not without 
reason, since he was my all. He left to me hardly 
anything more than the name and the honour of 
superior, for he did all the work himself. I bore the 



292 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

title of abbot, but he had the largest share of the soli- 
citudes of government. Deservedly, therefore, did " my 
spirit rest upon him," to whom it was owing that I 
could " delight in the Lord," preach the word with 
freedom, and give myself up to prayer with an easy 
mind. Yes, to thee, O my brother, to thee I owe a 
more tranquil peace of mind than my office would permit 
without thee, sweeter delights in repose, richer results 
from my preaching, greater devotion at my prayers, 
more frequent opportunities for reading, a stronger 
affection of divine love. 

Alas ! thou hast been taken from me, and with thee 
all these graces. All my consolations and all my joys 
have vanished together with thee. Now cares rush in 
upon me. Now troubles assail me on all sides. Afflic- 
tions have surrounded me, finding me abandoned and 
all alone. For only such companions remained with me 
after thy departure, and, unassisted, I groan beneath 
the burden. That burden I must now either sink under 
or lay aside, since thou has withdrawn the support of 
thy shoulders. Oh, who will grant me soon to die and 
follow thee ? To die instead of thee I should not ask, 
as that would be to wrong thee, by delaying thy en- 
trance into glory. But to survive thee, what is it but 
" labour and sorrow " ? So long as I live, I shall live 
in bitterness, I shall live in sadness. This shall be my 
sole consolation, that, without respite I shall always be 
a prey to sorrow and anguish. I will not spare myself. 
I will myself co-operate in my own chastisement with 
the hand of the Lord, for it is " the hand of the Lord 1 
that " has touched me." Me, I say, it has touched and 
smitten, not him, whom it has but beckoned to rest. 
It has slain me in the act of cutting short his exile. 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 293 

say " cutting short his exile/' rather than " slaying 
him,'' for surely it would not be true to call that a 
slaying which is rather a transplanting, an exchanging 
of a mortal for an immortal existence. But that which 
to him was the portal of life was the stroke of death 
to me. Indeed, I may truly say it was I who died by 
his death, not Gerard, who " fell asleep in the Lord." 
Gush forth, gush forth now, my tears, for he is gone, 
whose presence heretofore prevented your flowing, by 
excluding the cause. Open, ye fountains of my unhappy 
head, and pour yourselves out in rivers of water, if per- 
chance, you may thus suffice to wash away the soil of 
my sins, whereby I have called down upon me the 
just anger of heaven. When my tears shall have 
appeased and consoled the Lord, then, perhaps, I 
may deserve that He also should grant me a little 
consolation. But He will do this only on condition 
that I cease not from weeping, for it is only those 
who mourn that He has promised shall be com- 
forted. Wherefore, be indulgent towards me, all you 
that are holy, and let every spiritual person bear 
with me in my lamentation in the spirit of mild- 
ness. Let natural affection rather than custom be 
considered in judging my sorrow. For we daily 
see the dead mourning their dead, much lamen- 
tation and little fruit. We do not find fault with 
the grief itself, unless it be immoderate, but with the 
cause of it. The former is a part of our nature, and 
the disturbance it produces is the penalty of transgres- 
sion. But the cause of this grief is often vanity and sin. 
For, if I mistake not, the world laments only the loss of 
the glory of the flesh, and of temporal advantages. And 
they who weep for such things, are worthy themselves 



294 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

to be wept for. But is this my own case ? The 
emotion of sorrow is the same, indeed ; but far different 
are the motives, far different the intention. For cer- 
tainly I am not complaining of the loss of any worldly 
object. I mourn over the removal of a faithful helper 
over the loss of a trusty counsellor in the things that 
appertain to God. I lament and grieve for Gerard. 
The cause of my tears is Gerard, my brother according 
to the flesh, but more closely related according to the 
spirit, and the confidant and partner of all my designs. 
My soul cleaved to his. We two were made one, 
less by the ties of flesh and blood than by sameness of 
sentiment. Connected by the bond of consanguinity, 
we were still more closely united by our spiritual re- 
lationship, by the conformity of our minds,, and the 
harmony of our wills. As we were thus but " one 
heart and one soul," the sword of death pierced this 
common soul of him and me,* and dividing it in two, 
placed one part in heaven, and left the other lying 
prostrate in the mire of the earth. I, dearest brethren, 
I am that wretched part, cast prone upon the ground, 
despoiled of half of myself, and that the more excellent. 
And will you say to me " weep not " ? My very vitals 
have been torn out, and shall it be said to me, " do 
not feel " ? But I do feel ; oh, yes, I feel, because 
" my strength is not the strength of stones, nor is my 

* We find the same fancy in St. Augustine's lament for his 
friend (Confess., lib. iv. cap. vi.) : "It has been well said by 
some one of his friend, ' he was half of my soul.' I, too, have 
felt as if my friend's and mine were but one soul in two bodies. 
And therefore I had a horror of life because I hated to live 
without half of myself. And perhaps this was also the reason 
why I feared to die, lest I should thus lose him altogether, whom 
I so tenderly loved and half of whose soul still survived in 
me." — (Translator.) 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 295 

flesh of brass." I feel, most assuredly, and I am in 
pain, " and my sorrow is continually before me." 
Certainly, He Who uses the scourge cannot reproach 
me with hardness and insensibility, as He did them of 
whom the Prophet complained, saying, " Thou hast 
struck them and they have not grieved." I have con- 
fessed my sorrow and I have not denied it. You may 
call it carnal. I do not deny that it is human, any more 
than I deny that I am a man. If this does not content 
you, I will even allow it to be carnal, for " I am carnal, 
sold under sin," devoted to death, liable to sufferings 
and sorrows. I am not, I acknowledge, insensible to 
pain. The thought of death coming to me or to mine, 
makes me shudder with horror. And Gerard was mine, 
surely mine. How could he be other than mine, who 
was my brother in blood, my son in religion, my father 
in solicitude, my consort in spirit, my bosom friend in 
love ? He has abandoned me now, and I feel as if 
I were wounded, aye, wounded unto death, 

Forgive me, my children. Rather, because you are 
my children, compassionate your father's distress. 
" Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you, 
my friends," who know how heavily the hand of the 
Lord has been laid upon me for my faults. With the 
rod of His indignation He has stricken me, justly indeed, 
according to my deserts, but severely, considering my 
weakness. Surely no one who understands what Gerard 
was to me, will say it is a light punishment for me to 
be condemned to live without him. Yet, " I will not 
contradict the words of the Holy One." I do not find 
fault with the judgment, by which each of us has re- 
ceived what we severally deserved, he the crown, and 
I the cross. Or shall it be said that I resist the 



296 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

judgment because I feel the pain ? But to smart under 
the lash is not the same thing as to rebel against 
authority, for the former is but human, whilst the 
latter is an act of impiety. It is human, I say, and 
necessary to feel pleasure in the society of our friends, 
and sorrow in their absence. Familiar intercourse, 
especially between persons very dear to each other, 
has the effect of binding their hearts together. And 
this result, produced by mutual love in the friends 
whilst enjoying each other's company, is revealed by 
their fear of parting, and by the sorrow they experi- 
ence when actually separated. I grieve for thee, my 
best-beloved Gerard, not as if thy lot were pitiable, but 
only because thou art with me no more. And perhaps 
for this reason, I ought to grieve not for thee, but only 
for myself, who am still drinking of the chalice of bitter- 
ness. And the grief should be for me alone, because 
I drink alone, since thou hast no part with me in this 
cup. I alone have to suffer all the anguish which is 
accustomed to be shared equally by friends who, loving 
each other tenderly, are compelled to part. 

Would to God I were certain that thou art not lost to 
me for ever, but only gone on before ! Would to God I 
had assurance that, even though late, yet at length I 
shall follow thee, whithersoever thou hast gone ! I have 
no doubt at all but that thou art now with those whom, 
about the middle of thy last night on earth, thou didst 
invite to praise the Lord, when, with beaming face and 
exulting voice, to the astonishment of all present, thou 
didst suddenly cry out in the words of David, " Praise 
ye the Lord from the heavens ; praise ye Him in the 
high places." For on thee, brother mine, though it 
was still midnight, the dawn had then already broken, 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 297 

and thy " night was illuminated as the day." And 
assuredly that " night was thy light in thy pleasures." 
I was summoned to witness this miracle, the miracle 
of a man triumphantly awaiting the approach of death 
and mocking at its terrors. " death, where is thy 
victory ? O death, where is thy sting ? " No, it had 
not any sting of fear or pain for him, but only an 
impulse to jubilant song. For he sang as he died and 
he died as he sang. O death, the mother of sorrows, 
thou art now become a source of joy ! Thou, the 
enemy of glory, art now forced to subserve the interests 
of glory ! The gate of hell, thou art changed to the 
portal of heaven ! The very pit of perdition, thou art 
made the means of salvation ! And all that accom- 
plished by a sinful mortal ! Justly indeed, since thou 
in thy rashness didst impiously usurp dominion over 
the just and innocent Man. Thou art dead, O death ! 
Thou hast been caught in that Divine Hook Which thou 
didst so incautiously swallow, and Whose words we read 
in the Prophet, " O death, I will be thy death ; O hell, 
I will be thy bite." Pierced, I say, with that Divine 
Hook, thou dost now afford to the faithful who pass 
through the midst of thee, a broad and pleasant passage 
into life. It was through thy open jaws that Gerard 
entered the fatherland, not alone with confidence, but 
even with joy and with songs of praise. When, there- 
fore, I had reached his bedside, and had heard him 
completing the psalm with a clear voice, raising his 
eyes to heaven, he exclaimed, " Father, into Thy hands 
I commend my spirit." Then, repeating the same 
words, with frequent cries of " Father, Father," he 
turned to me, his countenance radiant, and said, 
" Oh, what a condescension on the part of God to 



298 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

become the Father of men ! And what glory to men 
to be the sons and heirs of God ! ' For if sons, heirs 
also.' " So sang he, my brethren, whom we now lament. 
And I confess that the remembrance of this almost 
changes my mourning into joy, for when I think of 
his glory, I all but forget my own misery. 

But bitter grief recalls me to myself. Anxious solici- 
tude quickly turns away my attention from that con- 
soling vision, as if awakening me from a light slumber. 
I will weep, therefore, but only for myself, since reason 
forbids me to weep for him. I believe, if he were now 
permitted to hold communication with us, that he 
would say, " Weep not over me, but weep for your- 
selves." King David had reason to mourn for his 
parricidal son, because he knew that for him the exit 
from the womb of death was for ever blocked by the 
obstruction of his crime. Good cause had he also to 
sorrow over Saul and Jonathan, who were both swallowed 
up together in a common destruction, without any hope 
of a future deliverance. They shall rise, indeed, but not 
to life. Or rather, they shall even rise to life, but only 
in order that, living in everlasting death, they may 
die the more miserably. Yet I feel some hesitation, 
and not without cause, about including Jonathan in 
this sentence of doom. But although I have not the 
same reasons for my lamentation as King David had 
for his, I am not in want of others. In the first place 
I grieve over my own loss and over the loss sustained 
by the community. I grieve, in the second place, on 
account of the necessities of the poor, to whom Gerard 
was as a father. I grieve, thirdly, for the sake of our 
whole Order and of the religious state in general, which 
derived no little support and edification from the in- 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 299 

fluence of thy zeal, the counsels of thy wisdom, and the 
example of thy life, O my brother. I grieve, lastly, 
although not over thee, dearest Gerard, yet on account 
of thee. This, this is the cause of my greatest affliction, 
my passionate love of thee. And let no man be trouble- 
some to me, telling me that I should not allow myself 
to be so overcome by natural feelings. For the kind- 
hearted Samuel was permitted to indulge his sorrow 
over the reprobate King Saul, and the pious David 
over the treacherous Absalom, and that, without the 
least prejudice to their faith, or the least opposition to 
heaven's appointment. "Absalom, my son!" wailed 
holy David, " my son, Absalom ! " " And behold, a 
greater than " Absalom " is here." The Saviour Him- 
self, looking upon Jerusalem, and foreseeing the fate 
that was soon to befall it, " wept over it." And shall 
not I be suffered to feel my own desolation, which 
is not future but actually present ? Must I remain in- 
sensible and irresponsive to the smarting of my fresh 
and grievous wound ? Surely I may weep from pain 
since Jesus wept from compassion. For at the grave 
of Lazarus He certainly did not reprove the mourners, 
nor command them to desist ; but, on the contrary, 
He united His own tears with theirs. " And Jesus 
wept," says the Evangelist. Those tears of His, most 
assuredly, betrayed no want of confidence, but only 
testified to the reality of His Human Nature. For He 
immediately called upon the dead man, in order to 
show us that faith suffers no loss from the affection of 
sorrow. 

So neither is my weeping a sign of a weak faith, 
but only an indication of my condition. From the 
fact that I cry out with pain on being smitten, it must 



300 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

not be supposed that I blame Him Who smites me. 
I only appeal to His compassion, and endeavour as 
best I can to soften His severity. Hence, though 
my words are full of gtief, they are yet free from 
murmuring. Have I not acknowledged the per- 
fection of His justice Who, by one compendious sen- 
tence, assigned to Gerard the reward, and to me the 
chastisement due to our respective merits ? And still 
I say, the " sweet and righteous Lord " has done well 
by us both. " Mercy and judgment I will sing to Thee, 
O Lord." Let the mercy, which Thou hast shown 
to Thy servant Gerard, sing to Thee. And let the 
judgment, under which I groan, sing to Thee also. In 
the one Thou shalt be praised for Thy goodness, in the 
other for Thy justice. Or is there praise for goodness 
only ? Yea, and for justice as well. "Thou art just, 
Lord, and Thy judgment right." Gerard Thou 
gavest, Gerard Thou hast taken away ; and if we lament 
his removal, we do not forget that he was but a loan. 
So we feel thankful that we were accounted worthy to 
have him even for a while. And our unwillingness to 
lose him is proportionate to the need which we had 
of him. 

But I remember, O Lord, my compact and Thy 
condescension, "that Thou mayst be justified in Thy 
words, and mayst overcome when Thou art judged." 
Last year when we were in Viterbo, in the cause of the 
Church, Gerard fell ill. His sickness grew more and 
more serious, until it seemed now that death was at 
hand. I could by no means reconcile myself to the 
thought of leaving in a foreign land the companion of 
my journey, and such a companion ; nor would any- 
thing content me except to restore him to the com- 



LAMENT OVER HIS BROTHER 301 

munity who had entrusted him to my care, for I knew 
how much all loved him, who in truth was exceedingly 
lovable. So I betook myself to prayer, with tears 
and sighs. And I said to Thee, "Wait, O Lord, wait 
until we have returned home. When he is restored to 
his brethren, take him then, if it pleases Thee, and I 
shall not complain." Thou didst grant my petition. 
Gerard recovered. We performed the task which Thou 
gavest us to do, and came back " with exultations, 
bearing the sheaves " of peace. Then I forgot our 
agreement, but Thou didst not forget. I am ashamed 
of these sobbings, which convict me of unfaithfulness. 
Why should I say more ? Thou hast but claimed back 
what Thou didst lend us. Thou hast but taken what is 
Thine. But I am now compelled to put an end to 
my words by the flow of my tears. Do Thou, O Lord, 
I implore Thee, put an end and a limit to them. 



SERMON XXVII 

In what sense the Beauty of the Spouse may be 
compared to the curtains of solomon. 

"As the curtains oj Solomon." 

Now that we have discharged the duty, imposed by 
charity and natural affection, of escorting, so to speak, 
our friend Gerard on his way home from this land of 
exile, I purpose to take up again to-day the interrupted 
work of your edification. For it is an unseemly thing, 
in my opinion, to prolong our lamentations over one 
who rejoices, and an unmannerly thing to obtrude our 
tears on one who is seated at a banquet. And if we 
mourn for our own misery, we ought to take care that 
this be not excessive, lest otherwise we should seem 
to have loved Gerard not so much for his own sake 
as for the advantages which we derived from his pres- 
ence. Then, let the thought of our dear one's joy 
temper the sorrow of the desolate. Let the belief that 
he is present and united with God render more en- 
durable his absence from ourselves. Relying, therefore, 
on your prayers, I shall endeavour and do my best to 
throw light upon that mystery, whatever it is, which 
I perceive to be wrapped up in those curtains, referred 
to in illustration of the beauty of the Spouse. It has 
been touched upon already, if you remember, but left 
undiscussed. How the Spouse is "black as the tents of 
Cedar," I have sufficiently examined and explained. 

But how are we to understand the comparison " beau- 

302 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 303 

tiful as the curtains of Solomon " ? As if, forsooth, 
Solomon " in all his glory " possessed anything worthy 
to be compared to the beauty of the Spouse, or to the 
magnificence of her ornamentation. Were we to say 
that these mysterious curtains, just as the " tents of 
Cedar," are likened not to the Spouse's beauty, but 
to her blackness, the similitude would perhaps be 
intelligible, and I should not be at a loss for 
reasons to explain its congruity, as indeed I intend 
to prove to you later on. But if we suppose 
that the splendour and glory of some kind of 
curtains is to be considered as bearing an analogy 
and a resemblance to the beauty of the Spouse, I 
certainly have particular need here of the assistance 
of Him Whose light you have implored, in order that 
I may be able to fathom this mystery and to unfold 
it in a manner befitting its dignity. For which of 
those things, which shine exteriorly, does not appear 
vile and hideous to a man of sound judgment, when 
compared with the interior grandeur of even any holy 
soul ? What, I ask, can be found in this world, whose 
"fashion passeth away," possessing a beauty at all 
comparable to that of the soul, which, having put off 
the oldness of the earthly man, has put on the glory 
of the heavenly, and adorned, not with the vanity of 
material decorations, but with the magnificent jewels of 
noble virtues, appears higher and purer than the heavens, 
more resplendent than the sun ? Do not, therefore, 
look to the earthly Solomon, when you desire to ascer- 
tain what those curtains are, of her resemblance to 
which in loveliness the Spouse is here represented as 
boasting. 
What, then, does she msan by saying, " I am 



304 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

beautiful as the curtains of Solomon" ? These words, 
my brethren, appear to me to contain a deep and mar- 
vellous meaning, if we are allowed to suppose that the 
reference is not to the historical Solomon, who reigned 
in Jerusalem, but to Him Who said of Himself, " Be- 
hold, a Greater than Solomon is here." For so truly 
a Solomon is this Solomon of mine, that not only is 
He called the Peaceful, which is the signification 
of the word Solomon, but he is even named Peace, 
since St. Paul tells us that " He is our Peace." 
With this Solomon, no doubt, something can be 
found which I need have no hesitation in comparing 
to the beauty of the Spouse. And with regard 
to the curtains in particular, observe what we read 
in the psalm, " Who stretchest out the heavens like 
a curtain*." Surely it was not the earthly and 
merely human Solomon, wise though he was, and 
very powerful, that so " stretched out the heavens like 
a curtain," but rather He, Who, being not so much 
wise as Wisdom Itself, not only stretched out but even 
created the heavens. For it is to Him, and not to the 
other, these words belong, " when He " — namely, God 
the Father — " prepared the heavens, I was present." 
Unquestionably the Father had present to Him His 
Power and His Wisdom, that is to say, His Word, 
" when He prepared the heavens." And do not imagine 
that the Word stood by doing nothing, and merely as a 
spectator, because He says, " I was present " and does 
not add " I was preparing with Him." Read on a 

* In the Douay Version the word "pellis," which in the 
Canticle is rendered "curtain," is translated "pavilion" in 
Psalm ciii. But St. Bernard's context requires this word to 
be taken in the same sense in both places. — (Translator.) 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 305 

little further, and you will find that addition explicitly 
made, where He declares, " I was with Him forming all 
things." He has also told us that " what things soever 
He (the Father) doth, these the Son also doth in like 
manner." Consequently, the Word as well as the 
Father " stretched out the heavens like a curtain." 
Most beautiful curtain, which with its wide expanse, 
covers the whole face of the earth as with a canopy, and 
delights the gaze of mortals with its wonderfully varied 
ornaments of sun, and moon, and stars ! What can be 
grander than this curtain ? What more magnificent 
than the heavens ? Nevertheless, not even these are 
in any sense comparable to the glory and loveliness of 
the Spouse. For " the fashion " of such things " passeth 
away," as being corporeal and perceptible to sense, 
" for the things which are seen, are temporal, but the 
things which are not seen, eternal." 

The beauty of the Spouse, on the contrary, is some- 
thing spiritual, and hence only to be discerned by 
reason. It is also eternal, inasmuch as it is an image 
of eternity. Her beauty, for instance, comprises charity, 
and, as you have read, "charity never falleth off." It 
also comprises justice, and her " justice continueth for 
ever and ever." Patience, too, because, as it is written, 
■ The patience of the poor shall not perish for ever." 
What shall I say of her humility, of her voluntary 
poverty, which also appertains to her beaut}' ? Does 
not the one merit an eternal kingdom and the other 
everlasting exaltation ? In that beauty is also found 
" the fear of the Lord, holy, enduring for ever and ever." 
And what are prudence, and temperance, and fortitude, 
and all other virtues whatever but pearls, as it were, 
in the adornment of the Spouse, gleaming with an im- 
1* u 



3 o6 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

mortal brightness? I say with an immortal brightness, 
because that brightness of the virtues is really the seat 
and support of immortal life. For there is no place 
at all in the soul for such a never-fading and blissful 
life except on the foundation and basis of the virtues. 
Hence the Prophet says to God, Who is the true blessed 
Life, "Justice and judgment are the preparation of 
Thy seat." And the Apostle prays " that Christ may 
dwell," not in every or any manner, but particularly 
" by faith in your hearts." So also when the Lord 
was about to sit upon the ass's colt, the disciples laid 
their garments thereon, signifying that the Saviour or 
salvation will not rest upon the soul unless her naked- 
ness be covered with the apostolic doctrine and virtues. 
The Church, therefore, having the promise of future 
felicity, takes care, meantime, to prepare and adorn 
herself with " gilded clothing, surrounded with variety," 
the variety, that is, of graces and virtues, in order that 
she may be found worthy and capable of the very 
fulness of grace. 

But even to this variety of spiritual beauty, which the 
Spouse has received in the present life with the first robe 
as it were, of the garments of her sanctification, I would 
by no means compare the splendours of this visible and 
corporeal firmament, most magnificent though it be 
amongst material things, by reason of the splendoui 
and diversity of its luminaries. Yet there is a " heaver 
of heavens," of which the Psalmist says, " Sing ye t< 
God, Who mount eth above the heaven of heavens t< 
the east." This is the intellectual and spiritual heavenj 
He " Who made the heavens in understanding," created 
and established it for ever, and dwells therein Himseli 
But do not suppose that the love of the Spouse remain 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 307 

outside this heaven, in which her Beloved abides. For 
where her treasure is there is her heart also. She 
therefore feels jealous of those who are privileged to 
contemplate that Divine Countenance Which she longs 
to see ; and as she cannot as yet share the vision with 
them, she tries to conform her life to theirs, crying out 
more by her virtues than by her voice, " I have loved, 
O Lord, the beauty of Thy house, and the place where 
Thy glory dwelleth." 

She certainly will not disdain to compare herself 
to this heaven of heavens. It also, like the other, 
is stretched out like a curtain, not indeed over extents 
of corporeal spaces, but in the spiritual affections of 
pure intelligences. And it is diversified with the 
works of the great Artificer, as wonderful as they 
are various. Again, there are in this heaven of 
heavens distinctions, not of colours * but of glories. 
For " God indeed hath set some " Angels, others Arch- 
angels, others Virtues, others Dominations, others Prin- 
cipalities, others Powers, others still Thrones, still others 
Cherubim, and others again Seraphim. These are 
the stars that adorn the heaven of heavens. These 
constitute the embroidery of this curtain, which is one 
of those belonging to my Solomon, and indeed is dis- 
tinguished above all the others by the endless variety 
of decorations which make up its multiform glory. 
But this immense curtain contains within itself innu- 
merable others, all equally curtains of Solomon, since 
every one of its blissful and holy inmates may be 
truly called in itself a curtain of Solomon. For they 
are all kind and " stretched out " in charity, extending 

* "Colorum." Other readings are " coelorum " (of heavens) 
and " locorum " (of places). — (Translator.) 



308 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

even to us. Nor do they begrudge us a share in 
the glory which they enjoy themselves, but rather 
desire it for us, and for this reason some of 
their number are content to associate with us, 
busying themselves about our interests and taking 
us under their care. " For are they not all 
ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall 
receive the inheritance of salvation? " Wherefore, just 
as all these blessed spirits, considered as a collective 
unity, are called the " heaven of heaven " (coelum coeli) 
in the singular, so, regarded as a multitude of distinct 
and independent beings, they are named the " heavens 
of heavens " (coeli coelorum) since each angel is a 
heaven in and by himself, and to each may be 
applied the words " stretching out the heavens like a 
curtain." You now understand, I think, what these 
curtains are which the Spouse is proud to resemble, and 
to what Solomon they belong. 

Let us next consider the glory of her who compares 
herself to the heavens, and to that heaven which is 
the more glorious in proportion as it represents the 
Divine Perfections in a more excellent way. Not un- 
reasonably does she derive a similitude thence whence 
she has derived her existence. For if she likens herself 
to the tents of Cedar on account of the body which is 
drawn from the earth, why should she not boast of 
an equal resemblance to heaven, by reason of the spirit 
which is heavenly * in its origin ? Especially, when 

* " Propter animam quae de coelo est." For two reasons the 
soul may be said to have come from heaven : bcth because it 
has been produced, not from the slime of the earth like the body, 
but by a direct exercise of the divine creative power, and also 
because it in a more especial manner has been made to the 
image and likeness of God. Berengarius fastened upon these 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 309 

her life bears witness to that celestial parentage, as 
well as to the dignity of her nature and the nobility 
of her fatherland. She adores and honours one God, 
like the angels. She loves Christ above all, as do the 
angels. Like the angels, she is chaste ; but her chastity, 
unlike the chastity of the angels, is preserved in the 
flesh of sin and in a frail body. Lastly, she seeks and 
relishes only the things that are above where the angels 
abide, and not the things which are upon the earth. 
What could be a more evident mark of celestial origin 
than so to retain the inborn resemblance to the spiritual 
creation in a world where everything is material ? to 
exhibit the glory of a heavenly life on earth and in 
exile ? to live as an angel in a body that is almost 
bestial ? Effects of this character have for their cause 
not an earthly, but a divine principle, and clearly indi- 
cate the supernal birth of the soul wherein they are 
manifested. But listen to St. John declaring the same 
more explicitly : " I, John, saw the Holy City, the 
new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." And 
he adds, " And I heard a great voice from the throne 
saying : Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and 
He will dwell with them." Why, do you ask ? As I 
believe, in order that He may take to Himself a Bride 
from amongst men. Strange ! He came for a Spouse 

words of St. Bernard and argued against him dilemrnatically 
to this effect : " If the soul comes from heaven, then either it 
must be said that the body also is of heavenly origin, or else that 
the soul has existed before its union with the body. To main- 
tain the first is the height of stupidity, to maintain the second 
is to fall into the error of Origen." As regards the latter point, 
the Saint expressly teaches elsewhere that the creation of the 
soul and its union with the body are simultaneous — " Creatur 
immittendo, it creando immittur." — (Translator.) 



3 io ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

yet came not without a Spouse. He sought a Spouse, 
whilst having a Spouse with Him. Shall we say that 
there are two Spouses ? God forbid ! One " is My 
Spouse," He has told us, " My Dove is but one." But 
just as He desired to form His different flocks of sheep 
into one " that there may be one fold and one Shep- 
herd " ; so, likewise, in order that there may be one 
Bridegroom and one Bride, it has pleased Him to 
unite the Church of men which He has established on 
earth, to that other Church in heaven, composed of 
the multitude of angels, which, as a Spouse, has cleaved 
to Him from the beginning. Therefore, by this her 
union with the earthly Spouse, the heavenly has not 
been duplicated but only made perfect. And so she 
understands what the Bridegroom says of her, " My 
perfect one is but one." Besides conformity with the 
will of the same Beloved makes one of the two Spouses 
here, by similarity of devotion, as it will make them 
more one hereafter by equality of glory. 

So you see, my brethren, that both come from heaven, 
Jesus, the Bridegroom, and His Bride the New Jeru- 
salem. He, in order to make Himself visible, " emptied 
Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in 
the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man." 
But in what form or beauty, or clothed with what 
splendour are we to suppose that John, the Seer of 
Patmos, beheld the Spouse descending ? Perhaps he 
recognised her in the multitude of angels, whom he 
observed " ascending and descending upon the Son of 
Man " ? But it is better to say that he then saw the 
Spouse, when he saw the Word made flesh, acknowl- 
edging the " Two in the one flesh." For when our Most 
Holy Emmanuel established on earth a school of heavenly 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 311 

doctrine ; when the visible image of that supernal Jeru- 
salem, "which is our mother," and the "loveliness of 
her beauty," were revealed to us, as reflected through 
and in the human life of the Bridegroom, what else 
did we contemplate but the Spouse in her Beloved, 
admiring in one and the same Lord of Glory both the 
' Bridegroom decked with a crown " and the " Bride 
adorned with her jewels" ? Therefore, He Who de- 
scended is the Same Who also ascended, that " no man 
may ascend into heaven, but He That descended from 
heaven," one and the same Lord being a Bridegroom 
in His Head, viz., in His Divinity, and as a Bride in 
His Body, viz., in His Human Nature. And not in 
vain did this heavenly Man appear here below, because 
from earthly men He has made multitudes heavenly 
like unto Himself, as it is written, " And such as is the 
heavenly, so also are they that are heavenly." From 
that time, the life of men on earth has approximated 
to the life of the angels. Like the celestial and blissful 
Spouse above, she also, that has been called " from the 
ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon," 
cleaves with chaste affection to her heavenly Bride- 
groom, to Whom, although not }^et, like that other, 
united by vision, she is nevertheless espoused through 
faith. This is what God promised by the mouth of 
His Prophet, Osee, saying, "And I will espouse thee 
to Me in justice, and judgment, and in mercy, and in 
commiserations ; and I will espouse thee to Me in faith." 
Hence, she endeavours to conform herself more and 
more perfectly to her heavenly Model, learning from 
Him to be modest and sober, to be chaste and holy, 
to be patient and compassionate, to be " meek and 
humble of heart." By the practice of these virtues 



312 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

she tries, even during her exile here below, to please 
Him " on Whom the angels desire to look " ; so that, 
whilst she burns with the same ardent desire as these, 
she may thus prove herself a "fellow-citizen with the 
saints " and a " domestic of God," a " beloved one," 
and a Spouse. 

Indeed, my brethren, it seems to me that every soul 
which is animated by such sentiments, is not only 
heavenly by reason of her origin, but may even herself 
be justly called a heaven, * on account of her imitation 
of the life above. For it is then she clearly shows 
herself to be heaven-sprung, when her " conversation is 
in heaven." Consequently, each holy soul may be 
considered as a heaven in herselt, wherein the intellect 
is as the sun, faith as the moon, and the different virtues 
as the stars. Or perhaps I might call zeal for justice, 
or fervent charity the sun, and continence the moon. 
For just as we are told that all the glory of the moon 
is borrowed from the sun, so continence has no merit, 
independent of justice and charity. Hence, the Wise 
Man exclaims, " Oh how beautiful is the chaste gene- 
ration with glory ! " That is to say, with charity. Nor 
do I think I have erred in calling the virtues the stars 
of the soul. A little reflection makes manifest the 
aptness of the image. For as the stars glitter in the 
night and fade by day, in the same manner, true 
virtue often lies concealed in the day of prosperity, 
but shines out resplendent in the night of adversity. 

* " ' Heaven is My seat,' says the Lord by the mouth of His 
Prophet ; and Solomon tells us that ' the soul of the just is 
the seat of wisdom.' But the Apostle calls Christ the Wisdom 
of God. Since, therefore, Wisdom is God, and heaven the seat 
of God, and the just soul the seat of wisdom, it clearly follows 
that the just soul is entitled to be called a heaven." — (St. 
Gregory the Great, Horn. 38 in Evangel. — (Translator.) 



THE BEAUTY OF TEE SPOUSE 313 

This occultation of virtue is due to prudence, as its 
manifestation is enforced by necessity. Therefore, since 
virtues are stars, the virtuous man may rightly be called 
a heaven. For surely we are not to suppose that when 
as we read, God said through His Prophet, "Heaven 
is My seat," He meant this visible and changeable 
heaven above us, and not rather that of which the 
Scriptures more clearly speak elsewhere, telling us that 
" The soul of the just man is the seat of wisdom." 
Now, he who understands from the teaching of Christ 
that God is a Spirit requiring to be adored in spirit, 
will certainly not hesitate to assign to Him also a 
spiritual seat. And I would confidently maintain that 
such a seat is to be assigned Him, not less in the soul 
of the just man than in the angelic spirit. I am especi- 
ally confirmed in this view by the Saviour's faithful 
promise, "We," viz., the Father and Himself, "will 
come to him," that is, to the holy soul, " and will 
make Our abode with him." It is, as I think, of the 
same heaven that the Prophet also spoke when he 
said, " But thou dwell est in the holy place, the Praise 
of Israel." And St. Paul evidently refers to it when 
he prays that " Christ may dwell by faith in your 
hearts." 

Nor should it surprise us, my brethren, that the 
Lord Jesus delights to dwell in the heaven of the just 
human soul, which He not only called into being by His 
omnipotence, as the other spirits, but He fought to ac- 
quire it, and He died to redeem it. Hence, after His 
labour, when He had now attained the object of His 
desire, He exclaimed, " This is My rest for ever and 
ever, here will I dwell because I have chosen it." Aad 
blessed is that soul to which it is said, " Come My 



314 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

chosen one, and I will place My throne in thee." But 
now, " Why art thou sad, O my soul, and why dost 
thou trouble me ? " Dost thou not think that even 
thou canst find in thyself a seat for the Lord ? But 
what seat have we in ourselves befitting such glory, 
suitable to such Majesty ? Would to God I were worthy 
even to " adore in the place where His Feet have stood " ! 
Who will grant me at least to follow faithfully in the 
footsteps of some holy soul which " He hath chosen 
for His dwelling " ? Yet, oh, that He would deign to 
anoint my soul, too, with the unction of His mercy, 
and so to " stretch it out like a curtain," which, when 
oiled, is easily extended ! Then should I also be able 
to sing, " I have run the way of Thy commandments, 
when Thou didst enlarge my heart." And perchance, I 
might be able to show Him in myself, if not " a large 
dining-room furnished " where He might recline with 
His disciples, at least a place " where to rest His Head." 
At any rate, I shall lift up my eyes from my lowly 
station to those blessed ones of whom it is said, " I 
will dwell in them and walk in them." 

Oh, how great is the amplitude, how great the merit 
and the prerogative of that soul which is found worthy to 
receive and sufficient to contain in herself the presence 
of the Divinity ! What must be her dimensions, since 
she is required to include spacious recreation-grounds 
for the Divine Majesty to walk in ! Certainly, such a 
soul does not entangle herself in litigation, or in worldly 
solicitudes. Neither does she give herself up to the 
delights of the flesh or the pleasures of the table. There 
is found no place in her for the ambition to rule, no 
pride of domination. For the soul that would become 
a heaven, a dwelling of God, must, in the first place, 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 315 

be entirely free from all these passions. Otherwise, 
how could she obey His command, ' be still and 
see that I am God " ? But it is also necessary 
to renounce hatred, and envy, and rancour, " for 
wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul." 
It is further requisite that the soul should grow 
and expand in order to make room in herself for the 
Divine Immensity. Now, love is the enlargement of 
the soul, as the Apostle says, " Be enlarged in charity." 
For although, as a spirit, she does not admit of cor- 
poreal expansion, yet, what nature denies her in the 
material sense, she acquires spiritually through grace. 
She therefore both increases and expands, but in a 
manner consonant with her spiritual nature. She in- 
creases not in substance but in virtue. She increases 
also in glory, " and groweth up into an holy temple in 
the Lord." She increases, lastly, and develops " unto 
a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness 
of Christ." Consequently, the magnitude of every soul 
is to be estimated in accordance with the degree of 
charity which she possesses, so that, the soul, for in- 
stance, which has great charity should be regarded as 
great, and the soul with little charity as little, and the 
soul possessing no charity, as nothing. Hence the 
Apostle declares, " If I have not charity, I am nothing." 
But if a soul begins to have charity, albeit in some very 
low degree, but so much at any rate as gives the good 
will to salute her brethren, and those who salute her, 
I should call that soul not nothing, but next to nothing, 
because she retains at least this social affection, ex- 
hibited and consisting in such an interchange of cour- 
tesies. Yet I might ask in the words of the Lord, what 
more does she do ? Neither ample nor great, but 



316 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

narrow and little, should I therefore esteem a soul of 
this kind, which I recognised to be so little in charity. 
But if she grows and progresses, so that, overstepping 
the limits of a straitened and ungenerous love, she 
attains, in perfect liberty of spirit, to the broad plains 
of spontaneous kindness, and endeavours to stretch 
out the curtains of her good will, so as to cover all her 
neighbours, loving each as she loves herself, surely, 
then, we can no longer justly say to her, " what more 
dost thou do ? " For has she not done much 
more in making herself so much more ample? 
Charity, I say, bears such an ample heart that it 
embraces all within itself, even those whom it 
recognises as connected with it by no ties of relation- 
ship, those to whom it is bound by no hope of future 
favour, and those to whom it is under no debt of 
gratitude for benefits already received ; for it is subject 
to no obligations except that of love, whereof the 
Apostle says, " Owe no man anything, but to love one 
another." But the soul may proceed still further. She 
may even do violence to the kingdom of charity, and, 
as a pious invader, prevail so far as to occupy its ter- 
ritories to their uttermost bounds. This she will have 
accomplished when she understands that not even to 
her enemies must the bowels of her piety be closed, 
when she does good to those who hate her, prays for 
those who persecute and calumniate her, and tries to 
live in peace even with those who hate peace. Then, 
without doubt, the breadth of that soul shall be as the 
breadth of heaven ; her height shall be as the height of 
heaven, and her beauty as the beauty of heaven. And 
thus shall be fulfilled in her that which is written, 
" stretching out the heavens like a curtain." In this 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 317 

heaven of wonderful breadth, height, and beauty, not 
only will the sovereign, immense and all-glorious Deity 
condescend to dwell, but He will even walk at large in 
its wide expanses. 

Do you perceive, my brethren, what varieties of 
heavens the Church contains within her, whilst, in 
her universality, she is herself an immense heaven, 
" stretched out from sea to sea, and from the river 
unto the ends of the earth " ? Then see also, by con- 
sequence, to what she is to be compared in this par- 
ticular, unless perchance you have forgotten the ex- 
amples I gave you a while ago, of the " heaven of 
heaven," and the " heavens of heavens." Therefore, 
after the pattern of that Jerusalem, which is above, 
and is our mother, this of earth, which is still in exile, 
has its heavens, viz., its spiritual men, illustrious in 
their lives and reputations, sound in faith, firm in hope, 
" stretched out like curtains " in charity, sublime in 
contemplation. They distil rain, too, these spiritual 
heavens, but it is the saving rain of the word, just as 
they thunder in their reproofs and lighten in their 
miracles. Also, they " shew forth the glory of God " ; 
because " stretched out like curtains " over the whole 
earth, they exhibit a "law of life and discipline " in- 
scribed in themselves by the finger of God, in order 
" to give a knowledge of salvation to His people." 
They publish, moreover, the Gospel of peace, as being 
the curtains of Solomon, the " Peaceful." 

In these spiritual, yet earthly, curtains of holy men, 
my brethren, you now recognise the image of the su- 
pernal, which were described quite recently, in connexion 
with the adornments of the Bridegroom. You also re- 
cognise the queen standing at His right Hand, decorated 



318 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

with similar, yet inferior ornaments. For she, even " in 
the place of her sojourn," as well as "in the day of her 
power," possesses not a little of glory and beauty " in 
the splendours of the saints." But not like her Beloved 
is she crowned with the complete and consummated 
glory of the saints. Still, I might describe the Spouse, 
too, as perfect and blissful, although only in part. 
For in part she is yet as the " tents of Cedar." Never- 
theless, she is beautiful, both in that part of her which 
already reigns in bliss, and also in the illustrious men 
by whose virtues and wisdom she is adorned on earth, 
as the firmament with its stars. Hence the Prophet 
Daniel says, " But they that are learned shall shine as 
the brightness of the firmament ; and they that instruct 
many to justice, as stars for all eternity." 

O humility ! O sublimity ! A "tent of Cedar," and 
a sanctuary of God ! An earthly habitation, and a 
heavenly mansion ! A house of clay, and a royal 
palace ! A " body of death " and a temple of light ! 
The scorn of the proud and the Bride of Christ ! She 
is " black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem." 
For although the labour and the pain of a long exile 
have darkened her complexion, all the same, she is 
clothed with the beauty of heaven, and adorned with 
the " curtains of Solomon." If you are displeased with 
her blackness, at least admire her loveliness. If you 
despise her humility, you must respect her sublimity. 
How prudently and wisely, how dis:reetly and be- 
fittingly has it been arranged that, in the Spouse, 
abjection and elevation should so counterbalance and 
compensate each other, "according to the time," that, 
amidst the vicissitudes of this world, sublimity lifts her 
up when cast down by misfortune, lest she should faint 



THE BEAUTY OF THE SPOUSE 319 

in adversity, and humility depresses her elation, lest 
she should grow vain in prosperity ! And thus, both the 
one and the other, opposed as they are in themselves, 
are wondrously made to co-operate into good for her, 
and to subserve her eternal salvation. 

So much for the simile by which the Spouse seems 
to compare her beauty to the curtains of Solomon. 
It remains now to put before you that other interpre- 
tation of the same text, which I mentioned and prom- 
ised at the beginning of this discourse, namely, to 
consider both comparisons, as well that of Solomon's 
curtains as that of the tents of Cedar, as referring to 
the blackness of the Spouse. I certainly purpose to 
be faithful to my engagement. But this exposition 
requires a special sermon to itself, both because the 
present is already too long, and also in order to give 
you time for prayer, that you may, as usual, call down 
a blessing upon what I shall have to say unto the praise 
and glory of the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus 
Christ, Our Lord, Who is God blessed for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXVIII 

The Curtains of Solomon are explained in refer- 
ence to the Blackness of the Bridegroom and 
the Bride. 

"As the curtains of Solomon." 

You remember, I suppose, what, in my opinion, 
those curtains are to which the Spouse compares her 
beauty, and to what Solomon they belong, that is, if 
we wish to refer the simile drawn from them to the 
illustration and commendation of that beauty. But if 
we prefer to understand this, as well as the comparison 
with the tents of Cedar, of the Spouse's blackness, I 
can think of no other curtains of Solomon, but those 
which the King used himself whenever it pleased him 
to dwell in tents. The exterior of such curtains, if 
indeed there were any, must doubtless have been dis- 
coloured and blackened from daily exposure to the 
sun and from the injurious effects of the frequent rains. 
Nor were they so exposed without reason, but in order 
that he who reposed within, decked with his royal orna- 
ments, might be preserved from any stain of defilement. 
By this similitude, therefore, the Spouse does not deny 
her blackness, but excuses it. Never shall she disdain 
any robe which charity forms and the judgment of 
truth does not condemn. For "who is weak and" 
she " is not weak ? Who is scandalised and " she 
" is not on fire ? " She assumes the swarthiness of com- 
passion in order to cure or to soothe the maladies of 

320 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 321 

evil passion in others. She grows dark through zeal 
for brightness, she becomes black in the quest after 
beauty. 

Thus, the blackness of One makes many white, not 
the blackness caused by sin, but that which results 
from solicitude. As we read, "It is expedient for you 
that one Man should die for the people, and that the 
whole nation perish not." It is expedient that One 
should be discoloured for the sake of all, " in the like- 
ness of sinful flesh," lest the whole nation should be 
condemned on account of the blackness of sin ; that 
the Splendour and the Figure of the Substance of the 
Divinity be shrouded in the form of a servant to save 
the life of a servant ; that the Brightness of Eternal 
Life should grow dim in the flesh for the purification of 
the flesh ; that He Who is " beautiful above the sons 
of men " should, in order to enlighten the sons of men, 
suffer the eclipse of His Passion, the disgrace of the 
cross, the discoloration of death ; and that He should 
be divested completely of all beauty and comeliness, that 
so He might win for Himself in the Church a comely 
and beautiful Spouse, without spot or wrinkle. I re- 
cognise King Solomon's curtain. Rather, I embrace 
Solomon Himself under His black curtain. For even 
Solomon has blackness, but only in His curtain, that 
is, in His skin. He is dark exteriorly, dark in His 
skin, not in His interior, because " all the glory of the 
King's daughter is within." Within is the White Light 
of the Divinity, the loveliness of the virtues, the splen- 
dour of glory, the purity of innocence. But all this 
beauty is concealed under the ignoble hue of infirmity. 
For " His look is, as it were, hidden and despised," 
whilst He is being " tempted in all things like as we are, 
1. x 



322 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

without sin." I recognise the symbol and type of our 
sin-blackened nature. I recognise those curtains, those 
garments of skins wherewith our guilty first parents 
covered their nakedness. For He made Himself black, 
"taking the form of a servant, being made in the 
likeness of men and in habit found as a man." I re- 
cognise under the skin of the kid, which signifies sin, 
the Hand of Him " Who hath done no sin," and the 
Neck through which the thought of evil never passed, 
and therefore " neither was there deceit in His Mouth." 
I know that thou art of a gentle nature, " meek and 
humble of heart," of gracious aspect and amiable dis- 
position, for Thou art " anointed with the oil of glad- 
ness above Thy fellows." How, then, dost Thou now 
appear rough and hairy like Esau ? What means this 
blackness? And these wrinkles on Thy Brow that 
should be white and smooth ? Whence this hairy cover- 
ing on Thy Hands ? Ah, yes, I understand. They are 
mine. These hairy Hands signify that Thou hast 
taken upon Thee the likeness of my sinful flesh. This 
shagginess I recognise as my own, and as holy Job 
predicted, in my own skin " I see God, my Saviour." 

But it was not Rebecca, but Mary, that clothed this 
my Jacob, Who was the more deserving to receive a pa- 
ternal blessing than His type, in proportion as He was 
born of a holier Mother. And rightly does He appear in 
my garments, since it is for me that the blessing is 
obtained, for me the inheritance is solicited. For He 
has heard His Father promising "Ask of Me and I 
will give Thee the Gentiles for Thy inheritance, and the 
utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession." " Thy 
inheritance," the Father says, and " Thy possession I 
will give to Thee," But how canst Thou give Him 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 323 

what is His already ? And why dost thou bid Him to 
ask ? Or how is that His which it is necessary He should 
ask for ? It is, therefore, not for Himself He is to ask, 
but for me. And it is for this that He has assumed 
my nature, in order to plead my cause. For, as the 
Prophet declares, "the chastisement of our peace is 
upon Him, and the Lord hath laid on Him the ini- 
quity of us all." " Wherefore," concludes the Apostle, 
" it behoved Him in all things to be made like to His 
brethren, that He might become merciful." Hence, " the 
voice indeed is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the 
hands of Esau." What is heard from Him is His own, 
but that which is seen in Him is ours. What He 
speaks is "spirit and life," what He exhibits to our 
sight is mortality and death. We see one thing and we 
believe another. Sense reports Him black, but faith 
discovers Him to be white and beautiful. Black in 
truth He is, but only to the eyes of the foolish. For 
to the minds of the faithful He appears wondrously 
fair and lovely. He is " black but beautiful," black in 
the estimation of Herod, beautiful in the confession of 
the Thief and in the faith of the Centurion. 

Certainly, His exceeding beauty did not escape the 
observation of him who exclaimed, " Indeed, this Man 
was the Son of God." But wherein he discovered that 
beauty, we have now, my brethren, to ascertain. For 
if he attended to external appearances, in what respect 
did the Saviour show Himself beautiful, in what the 
Son of God ? What did He exhibit to the eyes of the 
spectators except unsightliness and blackness, whilst, 
hanging between two criminals, with His arms ex- 
tended on the cross, He became an Object of ridicule 
to the malignant, and of compassion to the faithful? 



324 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

He alone excited laughter, Who alone could have ex- 
cited fear, and Who alone could have demanded honour. 
How, then, did the Centurion discover the beauty of 
the Crucified, and the Divine Sonship of Him Who 
" was reputed with the wicked " ? It is neither right 
nor necessary for me to reply to this question, since 
the vigilance of the Evangelist has not allowed it to 
pass unanswered. For thus we read, " And the Cen- 
turion, who stood over against Him, seeing that crying 
out in this manner, He had given up the ghost, said : 
Indeed, this Man was the Son of God." It was, there- 
fore, at the sound of His voice that he believed. It 
was the voice, not the Face, that revealed to him the 
Son of God. For perhaps he was one of those sheep 
of His, whereof He said, " My sheep hear My voice." 

Hearing discovered that which escaped the sense of 
sight. The eye was imposed upon by the colour, but 
the truth entered the mind through the avenue of the 
ear. For the eye pronounced Christ to be weak, un- 
sightly, miserable, a Man condemned to a most igno- 
minious death. But the ear recognised that He was 
beautiful, that He was the Son of God, not, however, 
the ear of the Jews, because they were " uncircumcised 
in ears." With good reason, therefore, did St. Peter 
cut ofl the external ear of the servant, in order to 
open a way for truth, that the truth might emancipate 
him, that is, might make him free. The Centurion also 
was uncircumcised, but not in ear, since from one cry 
of the dying Saviour, he recognised in Him the Lord 
of Majesty amidst so many evidences of weakness. 
And as he believed what he did not see, he did not 
contemn that which met his eye. It was not what 
he beheld that made him believe, but what he heard, 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 325 

because " faith cometh by hearing." It were more 
fitting, indeed, that truth should enter the soul by the 
upper windows of the eyes. But this, O my soul, is 
reserved for the next life, when we shall see " face to 
face." Meantime, let the remedy find its way into our 
minds through the same aperture as the malady of old ; 
let life follow in the tracks of death ; let light travel in 
the path of darkness ; and let the antidote of truth 
enter by the same door as the poison of the old serpent, 
and heal the eye, which is "troubled," in order that 
it may serenely contemplate Him Who is inaccessible 
to trouble. So let the ear, which was the first gate 
open to death, be also the first open to life. Let the 
hearing, which was the means of destroying the sight, 
be made the means of its restoration ; because unless 
we believe we shall not be able to understand.* Con- 
sequently, merit belongs to hearing, and reward to 
sight. Hence the Psalmist sings, "To my hearing 
Thou shalt give joy and gladness." For the Beatific 
Vision is the reward of faithful hearing, because it is by 
faithful hearing that we merit the Beatific Vision. Again, 
the Lord says, " Blessed are the clean of heart, for 
they shall see God." Now, the eye that is to behold 
God must first be purified by the faith that " cometh 
by hearing," as we read, " purifying their hearts by 
faith." 

In the meantime, then, until the sense of sight is 
fully prepared for its most perfect functions, let the 
hearing be aroused and exercised in receiving truth. 
Happy the man of whom Truth Itself bears witness, 

* An allusion to the scholastic formula, " credo ut intelligam " 
or perhaps to Is. vii. 9 (Juxta Sept.), " nisi credideritis non in- 
teiligetis. "— (Translator). 



326 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

saying, " At the hearing of the ear he hath obeyed 
Me ! " For I shall then only be worthy to see, if before 
seeing I shall have been found obedient . Securely shall 
I gaze upon my Lord, if He has already received the 
service of my obedience. How blessed was he who said, 
" The Lord hath opened my ear, and I do not resist, 
I have not gone back ! " Here you have a pattern of 
voluntary obedience, and also an example of persever- 
ance. For he who does not contradict is prompt to 
obey ; and he has perseverance who turns not back. 
Both virtues are necessary, since " God loveth a cheerful 
giver," and " he that shall persevere unto the end 
he shall be saved." Would that the Lord would open 
my ear, that the word of truth might enter my heart, 
and purify my eye, and prepare it for the blissful 
Vision ! Then I, too, might say to God, " Thine Ear 
hath heard the preparation of my heart." Then might 
I, too, with His other obedient servants, hear from 
Him, " And you are clean because of the word which 
I have spoken to you." For not all who hear are 
cleansed, but only those that obey. " Blessed are they 
who hear the word of God and keep it." Such a heedful 
hearing is required by Him Who commands, saying, 
" Hear, O Israel." And it is this hearing of obedience 
that he offered who said, " Speak, Lord, because Thy 
servant heareth ." The same is promised by the Psalmist, 
when he says, " I will hear what the Lord God will 
speak in me." 

" Hearken, O daughter, and see." So speaks the 
Holy Ghost, my brethren, wishing thus to make us 
understand the order He observes in leading souls to 
perfection, first instructing the ear and afterwards 
delighting the vision. Why, then, do you strain your 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 327 

eyes for the sight of the divine beauty, when you ought 
rather to be preparing your ears to receive the divine 
truth ? Are you yearning to see Christ ? But it is 
necessary to hear Him first, and to hear of Him, so that 
when you do see Him, you may be able to say, " As 
we have heard, so have we seen." Through so narrow 
and so small an opening as the aperture of the eye 
you cannot surely hope to take in a glory so immense. 
But you may do by hearing what is impossible to 
sight. Being then a sinner, I could not see God when 
He called, saying, " Adam, where art thou ? " Yet I 
heard Him. But if the hearing be found pious, vigilant 
and faithful, it will restore the lost vision. Faith will 
certainly purge the eye " troubled " by impiety ; and 
the eye that has been closed by the sin of insubordina- 
tion will be opened by the merit of obedience. This 
the Psalmist acknowledges as having occurred in his 
own case, when he sings, " By Thy commandments 
I have had understanding." For the observance of 
the divine precepts gives back the understanding 
which had been lost through transgression. And 
notice in the case of holy Isaac, how in his old age 
his hearing, as we read, was more perfect than any 
of the other senses. Dim were the eyes of the Patri- 
arch, unreliable his faculties of taste and touch. 
Only his hearing continued unimpaired. And what 
wonder if the ear is percipient of truth, since " faith 
cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ " ? 
For the word of Christ is truth. " The voice, indeed," 
said Isaac, " is the voice of Jacob." Nothing more 
true. " But the hands are the hands of Esau." Nothing 
more false. Thou art here in error, holy Patriarch. 
The resemblance of the hands deceives thee. Nor is 



328 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

there discernment of truth in thy taste, although it is 
true in its estimate of savour. For how can that 
faculty be said to pronounce truly, since it judges the 
food eaten to be venison, which, in reality, is only the 
flesh of the domestic kids ? Much less oughtest thou 
to look for truth in the testimony of thine eye which 
perceives nothing at all. There is neither truth in th ; 
eye, nor true wisdom. "Woe to you," says the Pro- 
phet, " who are wise in your own eyes." Surely that 
cannot be true wisdom which is thus accursed. It is 
the " wisdom of this world," which is " foolishness with 
God." 

But good and true wisdom " is drawn out of secret 
places," as blessed Job believed. Why then seek it 
outside, in your bodily senses ? Wisdom resides in the 
heart as taste in the palate. Seek not wisdom in the 
material eye, since flesh and blood do not reveal it, but 
only the Spirit of God. Neither should you look for it 
in the taste of the mouth, because " it is not found in 
the land of them that live in delights," as Job tells us. 
Nor in the touch of the hand, for the same holy man 
declares, "If I have kissed my hand with my mouth, 
which is very great iniquity, and a denial against the 
Most High God." As I understand it, the hand is thus 
kissed when wisdom, which is God's gift, is ascribed, 
not to Him, but to our own merits. Isaac was a wise 
man, yet he was led astray by his senses. Hearing 
alone takes hold of the truth, because it alone has per- 
ception of the word. Justly, therefore, is the still 
carnally-minded woman, Magdalen, forbidden to touch 
the reanimated Flesh of the Word, because she gave 
more credit to the eye than to the oracle, that is to 
say, to the sense of the body, than to the word of 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 329 

God. For she did not believe Him risen, though He 
had promised to rise, whereas she believed Him dead 
on the testimony of her senses. Nor did her eye rest 
until her sight had been satisfied, because she had no 
consolation from faith, no confidence in the promise 
of God. But is it not so, that heaven and earth and 
everything visible to this eye of flesh must pass away 
and perish, ere one jot or one tittle of all that God 
has spoken shall be suffered to fall to the ground ? 
And yet she, who found no consolation in the word 
of the Lord, ceased from her weeping at the vision of 
her eye, placing greater reliance on experience than on 
faith. Nevertheless, experience is often deceptive. 

She is, therefore, invited to give the preference to 
the more certain knowledge of faith, which attains to 
things beyond the reach of the senses, beyond the 
range of experience. " Do not touch Me," said the 
risen Saviour. That is to say, " Cease to confide in thy 
fallacious senses. Rely upon my word. Accustom 
thyself to being led by the influence of faith. Faith 
is infallible, it apprehends the invisible, it is a stranger 
to the poverty of sense. Nay, it even transcends the 
limits of human reason, the capacity of nature, the 
bounds of experience. Why ask the eye about objects 
beyond its possibilities of vision ? And why should 
the hand endeavour to touch that which is altogether 
above its reach. The knowledge given by either of 
these faculties is of comparatively little worth. But 
faith will certainly speak to thee of Me, without de- 
tracting aught from My Majesty. Learn to receive 
with more certainty and to follow with fuller confidence 
what it shall teach thee. ' Do not touch Me, for I 
am not yet ascended to My Father.' " As if to say that 



330 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

when He is ascended, she shall have the permission or 
the power to touch Him. And indeed that power she 
shall have, but with her affection, not with her hand ; 
with her will, not with her eye ; with faith, not with 
the senses. " Why," He asks, " dost thou seek to 
touch Me now, whilst with the bodily sense thou dost 
estimate the glory of My Resurrection ? Knowest 
thou not that even in the days of My passible life, the 
eyes of My disciples were unable to bear the glory of 
My mortal Body, momentarily transfigured. I still 
condescend, indeed, to the weakness of thy senses, by 
presenting to thee the form of a servant which thou 
canst recognise from thy past experience. But My 
glory ' is become wonderful to ' thee ; ' it is high ' 
and thou canst ' not reach to it.' Defer, therefore, 
thy judgment ; postpone thy verdict ; do not entrust 
thy senses with so important a decision, but reserve 
it to faith, which, as comprehending more fully, will 
pronounce sentence more worthily and with more truth 
and confidence. For faith, in that deep and mystical 
breast of hers, comprehends ' what is the breadth and 
length, and height, and depth ' of this glory. What 
'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered 
the heart of man,' that faith bears within herself, 
wrapped round with mystery and preserved under seal. 
" She, therefore, may worthily touch Me, who shall 
behold Me enthroned with the Father, no longer in an 
humble, but in a heavenly form, in the same Flesh 
indeed as to substance, but different as to degree of 
glory. Why wouldst thou touch what as yet is un- 
comely ? Wait that thou mayst touch Me when I am 
revealed in My perfect beauty. For I, Who am now 
unprepossessing by comparison, shall be truly beautiful 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 331 

then. Now I appear imperfect to the faculties of 
touch and of sight. I appear imperfect to thee, who 
art thyself imperfect, in that thou dost follow sense 
in preference to faith. Make thyself beautiful , and then 
mayst thou touch Me. Thou shalt make thyself 
beautiful by rendering thyself faithful. Thus beautiful 
thyself, thou shalt more worthily and more blissfully 
touch Me in My beauty. Thou shalt touch Me with 
the hand of faith, with the finger of desire, with the 
embrace of devotion, with the eye of the intellect. 
But shall I still be black ? God forbid ! Thy Beloved 
shall be beautiful beyond question and beyond compare, 
for He shall be ' white and ruddy ' as being surrounded 
with roses and lilies of the valley, that is, by the choirs 
of martyrs and virgins. Nor shall I in the midst of 
both companies appear alien to either, since I am 
Myself both a Martyr and a Virgin. For how could I 
be alien to the white choirs of virgins, being not only 
a Virgin, but the Son of a virgin, and the Bride- 
groom of a virgin ? Or to the roseate army of martyrs, 
I, Who am the Motive, the Virtue, the Reward, and the 
Model of martyrs ? When thou art such thyself, then 
mayst thou touch Me Who am such, and touch Me 
in such a way.* Then canst thou say, ' My Beloved 
is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands.' 
' Thousands of thousands ' are with thy Beloved, ' and 
ten thousand times a hundred thousand ' surround Him, 
yet nigh Him is there none. Perhaps thou hast need 
to fear, lest, in seeking Him Whom thou lovest, thou 
shouldst mistake for Him one of the multitude of His 

* " Talem talis taliterque tange." This sentence will give 
some idea of the Saint's power of condensation, as also of his 
fondness for alliteration. — (Translator.) 



332 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

attendants ? But no, thou shalt have no hesitation 
in singling Him out. He shall easily draw thy atten- 
tion, being ' chosen out of thousands/ and of peerless 
glory ; and thou shalt say, ' This is My Beloved, this 
Beautiful One, in His robe, walking in the greatness 
of His strength.' No longer, therefore, shall He walk 
in the black skin, which up to this had to be pre- 
sented to the eyes of His enemies, that they might 
despise Him Whom they were to slay, and now even 
to the eyes of His friends, that they might recognise 
Him after His Resurrection. No longer, I say, shall 
He appear under a black curtain, but in white robes, 
beautiful not only above the sons of men, but above 
even the angelic spirits. Why, then, dost thou wish 
to touch Me, whilst still in this humble habit, this servile 
form, this contemptible appearance ? Touch Me when 
I manifest Myself all radiant with heavenly beauty, 
' crowned with honour and glory/ terrible in the Majesty 
of My Godhead, yet sweet and mild in My native 
serenity." 

Here, my brethren, we must admire the prudence of 
the Spouse and the profound wisdom of her words. 
Under the shade of Solomon's curtains, that is, in the 
flesh, she seeks the Glory of the Divinity, she seeks 
Life in death, the summit of honour and majesty in 
disgrace, and under the black mantle of the Crucified, 
the whiteness of innocence and the splendour of virtue. 
For it was thus that those royal curtains, black though 
they were, and contemptible, preserved under their 
awning the bright and precious ornaments of an ex- 
ceedingly wealthy monarch. Wisely does she refrain 
from despising the blackness of the curtains, perceiving 
the beauty concealed underneath. But that blackness 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 333 

was despised by some who knew nothing of the treasure 
it covered. " For if they had known it," says St. 
Paul, " they would never have crucified the Lord of 
Glory." King Herod knew it not, and hence his con- 
tempt for Christ. Neither did the Synagogue know it, 
since she reproached the Saviour with His suffering and 
His weakness, saying, " He saved others, Himself He 
cannot save ; if He be the King of Israel, let Him 
come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him." 
But the Thief, from the cross whereon he was hanging, 
recognised that hidden beauty of Him Who was also 
suspended on His cross, and he acknowledged and pro- 
claimed the purity of His innocence. " This Man," said 
he, " hath done no evil." He also, at the same time, con- 
fessed the Glory of His royal Majesty by the prayer, " Re- 
member me when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom." 
This beauty under blackness was likewise detected by 
the Centurion, who declared the Crucified to be the 
Son of God, as it is now by the Church, which emulates 
the blackness in order to participate in the beauty. 
She is not ashamed either to appear or to be called 
black, so that she may be able to say to her Beloved, 
" The reproaches of them that reproached Thee are 
fallen upon me." Yet surely she is but " black as the 
curtains of Solomon," that is to say, only in her ex- 
terior, and not also within. For there is nothing black 
in the interior of this Solomon of mine. Observe that 
she does not say, " I am black as Solomon," but only 
" as the curtains," that is, as the skin " of Solomon," 
because the blackness of the true Peaceful One is all on 
the surface. The blackness of guilt shows itself within. 
Sin discolours the interior before it appears exteriorly 
to the eye. So it is written, " From the heart come 



334 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, 
thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies, these are the 
things that defile a man." God forbid that blackness 
of this kind should be found in Solomon ! No, such 
defilement you shall never discover in Him Who is truly 
called the Peaceful. For He, " Who taketh away the 
sins of the world," ought Himself to be without sin, 
in order that He may be found worthy to win peace 
for sinners, and so may be justly entitled to the name 
of Solomon. 

But there is, besides, the blackness of afflicted peni- 
tence, which appears when we conceive a heart-felt 
sorrow for our sins. I do not think that Solomon will 
contemn me for this kind of blackness, if voluntarily 
assumed on account of my transgressions, because " a 
contrite and humbled heart, O God, Thou wilt not de- 
spise." There is also the blackness of tender compassion, 
which we exhibit whenever we sympathise with our suf- 
fering brethren, as if we were discoloured by our neigh- 
bour's misfortune. Neither do I think that this blackness 
will be displeasing to our Peaceful One, since He Himself 
condescended to assume it for our sakes, " Who bore 
our sins in His Body upon the tree." Another kind of 
blackness is that of persecution. This should be valued 
as a most beautiful ornament, when borne for the sake 
of justice and truth. Hence we read that the apostles 
" went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that 
they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the 
name of Jesus." And the Lord says: " Blessed are 
they that suffer persecution for justice sake." It is 
in this blackness, most of all, as I think, that the 
Church glories. It is this she endeavours to copy more 
eagerly than any other of the black curtains of Solomon. 



THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON 335 

She has even been promised a participation in it, in 
the words of Christ, " If they have persecuted Me, they 
will also persecute you." 

Therefore the Spouse goes on to say, " Do not con- 
sider that I am brown, because the sun hath altered 
my colour." That is to say, " Do not find fault with 
me as uncomely because Thou dost not find me fair 
and blooming under the stress of affliction, nor beauti- 
fully tinted, according to human standards of beauty. 
Why wouldst Thou reproach me with a blackness due 
to the violence of persecution rather than to the defile- 
ment of transgression ? Or perhaps by the sun she means 
the zeal for justice by which she is inflamed and aroused 
against the malignant, saying with the Psalmist, " The 
zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up " ; and " My zeal 
hath made me pine away, because my enemies forgot 
Thy words " ; also, " A fainting hath taken hold of 
me, because of the wicked that forsake Thy law " ; 
likewise, " Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hated 
Thee, and pined away because of Thy enemies ? " She 
also carefully follows the advice of the Wise Man, 
" Hast thou daughters ? Shew not thy countenance gay 
towards them." For herein she is counselled to exhibit 
not the brightness of serenity, but the darkness of 
severity to such as are lax and effeminate and haters 
of discipline. Or again, to be discoloured by the sun 
may mean to burn with the flame of fraternal charity, 
like St. Paul, to " weep with them that weep," to be 
weak with the weak, to be on fire when any is scan- 
dalised. Still another interpretation : we may under- 
stand the Spouse as saying, "Christ, the Sun of 
Justice, has discoloured me, because I languish with 
the love of Him." Such languor destroys in a manner 



336 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the natural hue, and causes a swooning of the spirit, 
so to speak, through the intense ardour of the soul's 
desires. Hence the Prophet testifies, " I remembered 
God and was delighted, and was exercised, and my 
spirit swooned away." Therefore, the ardour of desire, 
like a burning sun, darkens the complexion of the pil- 
grim longing for the Vision of Glory, whilst impatience 
is begotten of disappointment and eagerness of love is 
tormented by de^y. Which of us, my brethren, is so on 
fire with holy love, that in his yearning to behold Christ, 
he loathes and leaves aside all the brightness and joy 
of earthly glory and gratification, protesting to Him 
in the words of the Prophet Jeremias, " And I have 
not desired the day of man, Thou knowest," and saying 
with holy David, " My soul refused to be comforted," 
that is, she disdained to be brightened with the empty 
joys of worldly honours. Or, finally, she may have 
meant this : " The Sun hath darkened my colour by 
the contrast with His own Divine Splendour. For as I 
draw nigh to Him I am made more sensible of my 
own duskiness. I obtain a clearer knowledge of my 
own blackness, and I despise my ugliness. Yet in 
other respects I am truly beautiful. Why do you call 
me black, since I yield only to the Sun in loveliness ? " 
But what follows seems to me to accord better with 
the interpretation of the blackness as the effect of vio- 
lence. For the Spouse clearly indicates that she suffered 
persecution, by adding " The sons of my mother have 
fought against me." But I shall take this as my text 
in the morrow's discourse. To-day you must be satis- 
fied with what you have already heard concerning 
the glory and by the grace of the Bridegroom of the 
Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is God, blessed 
for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXIX 
On Domestic Discord and Fraternal Correction. 

" The sons oj my mother have j ought against me." 

" The sons of my mother have fought against me." 
Annas, and Caiaphas, and Judas Iscariot were sons of 
the Synagogue ; and these fought most fiercely against 
the daughter of the Synagogue, that is to say, against the 
Church, in her very infancy, hanging Jesus, her Founder, 
on the tree of the cross. For God then fulfilled by their 
means what He had long before predicted through His 
Prophet, saying, " I will strike the shepherd, and the 
sheep of the flock shall be dispersed." And perhaps 
that is the voice of the infant Church which we hear 
in the canticle of Ezechias, " My life is cut off as by a 
weaver ; whilst I was yet but beginning He cut me off." 
It is, therefore, of those mentioned just now, and of 
others of the same nation, who are known to have 
been enemies of the Christian name, that the Spouse 
here complains, saying, "The sons of my mother 
have fought against me." ' And rightly does she call 
them the sons of her mother, not the sons of her Father, 
since they had not God for their father, as the Saviour 
testifies, but were from their father the devil. For 
they were murderers, just as he was a murderer from 
the beginning. Hence, she does not say " my brothers " 
or " the sons of my Father," but " The sons of my 
mother have fought against me." Otherwise, without 
this distinction, the Apostle St. Paul might seem to be 
i. 337 v 



338 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

included amongst those of whom she makes this com- 
plaint, since he also once persecuted the Church. Yet 
he obtained mercy, because he " did it in ignorance," 
whilst living in infidelity. And he proved afterwards 
that he had God for his Father, and thus that he was 
a brother to the Church, as having the same Father in 
heaven and the same mother on earth. 

But observe, my brethren, how she accuses by name 
the sons of her mother, and them alone, as if only they 
are in fault. Yet how much has she not also suffered 
irom aliens ! As she says herself by the Prophet David, 
" Often have they fought against me from my youth " ; 
also, " The wicked have wrought upon my back." 
Wherefore, then, dost thou complain of none but the 
sons of thy mother, knowing, as thou dost, that men 
of different nations have often persecuted thee ? It is 
written, " When thou art invited to the table of a 
rich man, consider diligently the things that are laid 
before thee." We, my brethren, are seated at the 
table of Solomon. Who is more wealthy than Solomon ? 
I speak not of earthly riches, although Solomon has an 
abundance even of these. But I wish you to consider 
the mystical table now before us, how richly furnished 
it is with celestial delicacies. Spiritual and divine is the 
food placed upon it for our use. Hence we read, 
" consider diligently the things that are laid before 
thee, knowing that it behoveth thee also to prepare 
the like." And so, with all the diligence of which I 
am capable, I consider what is laid before me and what 
is meant for my own instruction and admiration in 
those words of the Spouse. And that which especially 
arrests my attention is the fact that she mentions 
expressly and solely the persecutions suffered from those 



ON DOMESTIC DISCORD 339 

of the household, passing over in silence the others, 
so numerous and cruel, which, as we know, she has en- 
dured from men of every nation under heaven, from 
infidels, heretics, and schismatics. I am too well ac- 
quainted with the prudence of the Spouse to imagine 
that such an omission is due to chance or forgetfulness. 
But, evidently, she laments more particularly what 
affects her more sensibly, and what she desires to put 
us more on our guard against. What is that, my 
brethren ? It is the plague of internal and domestic 
dissension. You have this clearly expressed in the 
Gospel, by the mouth of the Saviour Himself, where 
He says, "And a man's enemies shall be they of his 
own household." You may read the same in the 
Psalmist, "The man of my peace, in whom I trusted, 
who eat my bread, hath greatly supplanted me." Also, 
' For if my enemy had reviled me, I would verily have 
borne with it ; and if he that hated me had spoken 
great things against me, I would perhaps have hidden 
myself from him. But thou, a man of one mind, my 
guide and my familiar, who didst take sweet meats 
together with me." That is to say, " The wrong done 
me by thee, my friend and companion, causes me more 
pain and distress than all that I suffer from others."* 

* When he spoke these words, the Saint and his hearers 
m.ust have had in mind the foul treachery of which he was 
himself the victim. He had been most basely betrayed by his 
own trusted secretary, Brother Nicholas. This wolf in sheep's 
clothing, possessing a counterfeit of the holy Abbot's seal, was 
in the habit of sending out letters in St. Bernard's name' cal- 
culated to injure his reputation. Thus he used to write even 
to the Popes, calumniating prelates and religious com- 
munities, or recommending unworthy persons for ecclesiastical 
offices. Being at last discovered, he 'fled from Clairvaux. But 
is soon as the Saint was dead, the miserable apostate returned 



340 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

You know who it is that makes this complaint, and of 
whom. 

Acknowledge, then, that the Spouse is complaining 
of the sons of her mother, with the same sorrow, because 
in the same Spirit, as David of Achitophel, when she 
says, " The sons of my mother have fought against me." 
Hence, she elsewhere makes a similar complaint : " My 
friends and my neighbours have drawn near and stood 
against me." Remove far from you, my brethren, this 
abominable and detestable evil of domestic discord, 
you who have experienced and do daily experience 
" how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell 
together in unity," if yet the union of bodies is accom- 
panied by concord of will, and not by the scandal of 
dissension. Otherwise, the dwelling together shall 
neither be " pleasant " nor " good," but most bitter 
and evil. But woe to the man by whom the pleasant 
bond of unity is broken ! Assuredly he shall bear the 
judgment, be he who he may. Rather let me die than 
hear any of you truthfully exclaiming, " The sons of 
my mother have fought against me " ! Are you not 
all sons of this congregation, as if of the same mother, 
and brothers of each other ? What, therefore, can 
disturb you from outside or sadden you, if all be well 
within, and you enjoy fraternal concord ? For " who is 
it that can hurt you if you be zealous of good ? " Where- 
fore, " be zealous for the better gifts," that you may 
prove yourselves zealous of the good. 

But charity is of all gifts the most excellent. Surel} 
that gift must be quite incomparable which the Heavenl} 
Bridegroom was so often at pains to recommend to His 

to the attack, and by his slanderous stories, endeavoured t< 
asperse a memory eve^where held in highest honour.— 
(Translator.) 



ON DOMESTIC DISCORD 341 

newly-wed Bride, at one time saying, " By this shall all 
men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one 
for another " ; at another " This is My commandment, 
that you love one another," and, " A new command- 
ment I give to you, that you love one another." He 
also prayed that they might be one, as He and the 
Father are one. And see if St. Paul, who invites you 
to " be zealous for the better gifts," does not give 
charity the first place amongst all, both when he de- 
clares it superior to faith and hope and surpassing 
knowledge, and when, after enumerating the manifold 
and wonderful gifts of supernal grace, he directs us 
to a still more excellent way, which he affirms to be 
none other than charity. But what can be conceived 
comparable to that which is to be preferred to mar- 
tyrdom itself, and to a faith strong enough to move 
mountains ? Therefore, I say to you : have peace 
amongst yourselves, and then whatever may seem to 
threaten from outside, it shall have no power to frighten 
you, because it shall have no power to hurt you. On 
the other hand, no matter how the world may appear 
to smile upon us, we shall certainly find in that no 
consolation, if, at the same time, the seed of discord 
(from which may God preserve us !) is sprouting in 
our midst. Therefore, my dearly beloved, be at peace 
with each other. Let no one injure his brother by 
word or deed, or by any sign. Let no one, exas- 
perated perhaps and surpiised by "pusillanimity of 
spirit and the storm," be compelled to appeal to God 
against those who have offended and saddened him, 
and to give utterance to that serious accusation, " The 
sons of my mother have fought against me." 

For by thus sinning against your brother, you sin 



342 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

against Christ, Who has declared that, "As long as 
you did it to one of these, My least brethren, you 
did it to Me." And we do not fulfil our duty in 
this matter by being on our guard against the more 
serious violations of fraternal charity such as open 
contumely or bitter reproaches, such also as secret and 
slanderous whispering. It is not, I say, sufficient to 
preserve ourselves from the graver faults, viz., those I 
have just mentioned, and others of a similar nature. 
We must avoid light transgressions as well. If, indeed, 
anything can be called light which you presume to do 
with the will of hurting your brother, since you shall 
be held guilty of the divine judgment merely for being 
angry with him. And justly so. For that which we 
consider light, and therefore lightly commit, will gene- 
rally appear different to the offended party, because 
" man looketh on the face and judgeth according to 
the face," ready to regard a straw as a beam, and to 
magnify a spark to a furnace. Not all possess that 
charity which " believeth all things." ' The imagina- 
tion and thought of man's heart are prone "to suspect 
evil rather than to believe good. This is especially the 
case, where the rule of silence neither allows him who 
is the cause to offer an explanation, nor the other to 
lay bare the soie of suspicion from which he suffers, 
in order that it may be healed. So that the latter is 
inflamed and his soul succumbs to a secret and deadly 
wound amidst deep groans of internal anguish. For, 
completely given up to the disquiet and agitation of 
anger, he can do nothing else but revolve silently in 
his mind the injury he fancies has been done him. 
Prayer is no longer possible to one in this condition. 
He can neither apply his mind to reading, nor meditate 



ON DOMESTIC DISCORD 343 

on anything holy and spiritual. And whilst the vital re- 
spiration is thus suspended, so to speak, and the soul, 
deprived of her proper nourishment , is rapidly approach- 
ing death, that soul for which Christ died, what, I ask 
thee, who art the offender, what is the state, what are 
the feelings of thine own soul ? What relish canst 
thou find in prayer or in labour, or in any other ex- 
ercise, whilst Christ is sadly complaining of thee from 
the breast of the brother whom thou hast aggrieved, 
saying, " The son of My mother hath fought against 
Me," and " he ' who took sweet meats together with 
Me ' hath rilled Me with bitterness " ? 

But if thou shouldst say that he ought not to be so 
perturbed on account of so slight an offence, I answer 
that the slighter it was the more easily might it 
have been avoided by thee. And yet, as I have already 
remarked, I know not how thou canst call slight any- 
thing that goes beyond the mere feeling of anger, 
since even this is matter for judgment, as the Judge 
Himself declares. What ! Surely thou wilt not regard 
as trivial that which offends Christ and for which thou 
shalt be brought before the divine tribunal. "It is 
a fearful thing," says St. Paul, "to fall into the hands 
of the living God." Therefore, whenever anyone hap- 
pens to hurt thy feelings, and it is almost impossible 
that this should not occasionally occur in such com- 
munities as ours whose members are thrown so much 
together, do not immediately hasten, after the manner 
of worldlings, to retaliate upon the offending brothei 
by an abusive answer. Neither oughtest thou to be, 
under any pretence of administering correction, so 
viciously daring, as to transfix with a sharp and blister- 
ing word the soul for which Christ refused not to be 



344 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

fixed on the cross. Nor shouldst thou vent thy anger 
by inarticulate expressions of resentment, by sup- 
pressed mutterings and murmurings, by turning up 
the nose in disdain, by the laughter of contempt and 
mockery, or by the frown of reproach or menace. No, 
but rather let the agitation expire in thine own heart, 
where it was brought to birth. Let not that passion 
which carries death be permitted to go abroad lest it 
should work havoc to some brother's soul. So shalt 
thou be able to say with the Prophet, " I was troubled 
and I spoke not." 

I am aware, my brethren, that some find a more 
profound signification in these words, as if they were 
spoken of " the devil and his angels." For these also 
were sons of " that Jerusalem which is above, which 
is our mother." But they fell, and since their fall 
have not ceased to fight against their sister, the Church. 
Nor shall I contradict him who may prefer a more 
benign interpretation, according to which the meaning 
would be that the spiritual sons of the Church fight 
against their carnal brothers with the sword of the 
Spirit, which is the word of God, inflicting on them 
wounds, not unto death but unto their salvation, and 
by such onslaughts compelling them to attend to their 
spiritual interests. Would that the "just man" 
might " correct me in mercy and reprove me,"" " striking 
and healing, killing and making alive," so that, with 
St. Paul, I, too, might dare to say, " I live, now not I, 
but Christ liveth in me " ! "Be at agreement with thy 
adversary betimes," said the Lord, "whilst thou art 
on the way with him, lest perhaps the adversary deliver 
thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the 
officer." A good adversary he, with whom, if I am 



ON DOMESTIC DISCORD 345 

in agreement, neither the judge nor the officer shall 
have a word to say against me. Certainly, my brethren, 
if I have ever saddened any of you for the sake of your 
amendment, I do not regret it, because that sadness is 
unto salvation. And I cannot recall that I have ever 
done so without feeling great sadness myself, as it is 
written, " A woman, when she is in labour, hath sor- 
row." But God forbid that I should any longer think 
of my anguish, now that I possess the fruit of my 
pains and see Christ formed in my children ! I know 
not how it is, but it is true nevertheless, that I feel a 
more tender affection for those whom I have at length 
restored to spiritual health after and by means of many 
reprehensions, than for others who have always been 
strong and able to dispense with such bitter medicine. 
Therefore, my brethren, the Church, or the soul that 
loves God, can say in this sense that the Sun has dis- 
coloured her, namely, by sending some of the sons of 
her mother to fight against her in this salutary way, 
and to lead her captive to His faith and love, pierced, 
no doubt, with many of those arrows whereof we read, 
' Sharp are the arrows of the Mighty,'' and, " Thy 
arrows are fastened in me." Hence she goes on to 
say, " There is no health in my flesh " ; so that, being 
made healthier in spirit, and consequently stronger, 
through the infirmity of the flesh, she is able to affirm, 
' The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," 
or with the • Apostle, " When I am weak, then am I 
powerful." Do you observe how the weakness of the 
flesh increases the strength of the spirit and supplies it 
with new energies ? Then be assured of the converse 
also, that the strength of the flesh produces weakness of 
the spirit. And what wonder if you increase in power in 



346 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

proportion as your enemy increases in weakness ? That 
is, unless you are mad enough to regard as your friend 
that flesh which ceases not to lust against the spirit. 
See, therefore, if the holy Psalmist did not act prudently 
in praying to be savingly pierced with these arrows and 
to be " fought against," where he says, " Pierce my flesh 
with Thy fear." An excellent arrow is fear, which 
transfixes and slays the desires of the flesh, "that the 
spirit may be saved." And does it not seem to you 
that he who chastises his own body, and brings it into 
subjection, is himself assisting the hand that fights 
against him ? 

Another spiritual arrow is the word of God, "living 
and efficacious, and more piercing than any two-edged 
sword." Of this the Saviour said, " I came not to send 
peace but the sword." A most penetrating arrow also is 
the love of Christ , which not only pierced, but even trans- 
pierced Mary's soul, in such a way as to leave no single 
fibre of that virginal breast unclaimed by charity, causing 
her to love with her whole heart , with her whole soul, and 
with all her strength, so that she might be full of grace. 
Or it may be said to have transpierced her in the sense 
that it passed through her and so came to us, in order 
that of her fulness we might all receive, and that she 
might become the mother of charity (of which the 
Father is God, Who is substantial Charity) bringing 
forth and setting its Tabernacle in the sun. Thus was 
fulfilled the words of Isaias, " I have given Thee to be 
the Light of the Gentiles, that Thou mayst be My Sal- 
vation, even to the farthest part of the earth." And it 
was fulfilled through Mary, who brought forth in 
visible flesh Him Whom she received invisibly, neither 
from flesh nor with flesh. She, in truth, suffered in her 



ON DOMESTIC DISCORD 347 

whole being a great and most delicious wound of love. 
Happy should I esteem myself, did I but occasionally 
feel my soul pricked at least with the point of that 
sword, so that, having received a little wound of charity, 
I might exclaim, " I am wounded with love." Who 
will grant me not only to be wounded in this manner, 
but even to be " fought against," until I have utterly 
lost both the colour and the concupiscence of that 
flesh which " lusteth against the spirit " ! 

If the daughters of this world revile such a soul, 
taunting it with its pallor and poverty of colour, does 
it not seem to you, my brethren, that they may be 
suitably answered in the words, " Do not consider that 
I am brown, because the sun hath altered my colour " ? 
And if that soul remembers that she has been brought 
to this happy condition by means of the exhortations 
and reprehensions of certain servants of Christ, who 
were " jealous of her with the jealousy of God," will she 
not be able to add with all sincerity that "-The sons 
of my mother have fought against me " ? The sense, 
therefore, will be, according to what has been said, 
that the Church, or indeed any soul studious of virtue, 
utters these words, not in lamentation or complaint, 
but with joy and thanksgiving, nay, glorying in that, 
for the name and the love of Christ, she has been ac- 
counted worthy to be and to be called discoloured. 
And this she ascribes, not to any merit of her own, but 
to the grace and mercy of Him Who prevented her with 
His inspirations and sent His preachers to instruct and 
encourage her. For how could she believe " without a 
preacher " ? And " how could they preach unless they 
were sent ? " Without indignation, but not without 
gratitude, she declares that the sons of her mother have 



348 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

fought against her. Hence she adds, " They have made 
me keeper in the vineyards." If these words be " spiri- 
tually examined," I believe it will appear that they ex- 
press no discontent or ill-feeling, but savour of something 
more excellent. But before presuming to address our- 
selves to this investigation, since "the place is holy," 
we must, with the customary prayers, conciliate and so 
consult that Holy Spirit Who "searcheth the deep 
things of God " ; or certainly the " Only- Begotten, Who 
is in the bosom of the Father," the Bridegroom of the 
Church, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is over all, God 
blessed for ever. Amen. 






SERMON XXX 

On the Mystical Vineyards, and concerning the 
Prudence of the Flesh. 

" They have made me keeper in the vineyards ; my vineyard I have 

not kept." 

" They have made me keeper in the vineyards." 
Who ? Is it they of whom thou hast just been saying 
that they fought against thee ? Attend, my brethren, 
and see if she does not now confess that the authors 
of her suffering have been also the cause of her ad- 
vancement. Nor should this surprise us, whenever it 
happens that the motive of their fighting against her 
is the desire of her amendment. For who doer not 
know that many are often fought against from motives 
of love and to their own advantage ? How many do 
we daily see going forward to better things, elevated 
to higher things, on account of the charitable onslaughts 
of their superiors ! This being evident enough, let me 
now show, if I can, how even when the sons of her 
mother have fought against the Church, and that, not 
with a view to her advantage, but from a spirit of 
enmity, yet their opposition, far from being hurtful, 
on the contrary has been profitable to her. For we 
experience a peculiar pleasure, whenever they, who 
intend our hurt, subserve our interests against their 
will. The interpretation just given embraces both these 
senses, because there have not been wanting to the 
Church either ill-disposed or well-disposed opponents, 

349 



350 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

fighting against her from opposite motives. But she 
has derived benefit from all. She boasts of having 
profited so much from the sufferings caused her by her 
antagonists, that instead of the one vineyard which they 
seemed to have taken from her, she now has the joy 
of being set over many. " Those who fought against 
me and my vineyard," she seems to say, " and who 
cried ' Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof/ 
have done me the service of enabling me to exchange 
one vineyard for many." This is the meaning of the 
words added, " My vineyard I have not kept." As if 
she wanted to explain how it happened that she is now 
appointed keeper, not of one, but of many vineyards. 
Such, I take it, is the literal sense of the text. 

But if we take these words of the Spouse in their 
obvious signification, content with the meaning which 
appears to lie upon the surface, we shall imagine our- 
selves reading in the Holy Scriptures of those material 
and earthly vineyards, which, as we see, daily receive 
of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth 
wherewith to produce the wine that ministers to luxury. 
And thus we shall seem to have extracted from the 
inspired utterance, so holy and so divine, nothing, I 
do not say worthy of the immaculate Bride of Christ, 
but even befitting any ordinary bride of any ordinary 
bridegroom. For what is there in common between 
spouses and the keepers of vineyards ? And even 
granting that there are some points of agreement, how 
shall we show that the Church has ever been appointed 
to the guardianship of vineyards ? " Doth God take 
care for " vineyards ? But if we adopt a spiritual 
interpretation, and understand the vineyards to mean 
the different churches, that is, the different faithful 



ON THE MYSTICAL VINEYARDS 351 

peoples, according to the words of Isaias, " The vine- 
yard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel," then 
perhaps we shall begin to see clearly how it is no dis- 
honour to the Spouse to be appointed " keeper in the 
vineyards." 

This even appears to me to contain no unimportant 
prerogative. And you, my brethren, will be of the 
same opinion if you take the trouble to consider care- 
fully how the Church extended her territory into such 
spacious vineyards throughout the whole world, from 
that day on which the sons of her mother fought against 
her at Jerusalem, and thrust her out, together with her 
new plantation. I speak of the " multitude of believers," 
who, as we read, " had but one heart and one soul." 
And that primitive plantation is the vineyard which the 
Spouse acknowledges she has not kept ; but " it shall 
not be reputed as folly unto her." For it was not so 
rooted out of Jerusalem as not to be planted elsewhere, 
and "let to other husbandmen that should render 
the fruit in due season." Manifestly, then, it perished 
not, but peregrinated. It even increased and extended, 
as having a blessing from the Lord. Then, lift up your 
eyes, and see whether or not " the shadow of it covered 
the hills, and the branches thereof the cedars of God " ; 
whether or not " it stretched forth its branches unto 
the sea, and its boughs unto the river." And no wonder. 
For it is " God's husbandry, God's building." It is 
He Who fertilises it, propagates it, prunes and purges 
it, "that it may bring forth more fruit." When shall 
that, which His Right Hand has planted, be deprived 
of care and cultivation ? Certainly, the vineyard where 
the Lord is the Vine, His apostles the branches, and 
His Father the Husbandman, shall never be allowed to 



352 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

suffer from neglect. Planted in faith, rooted in charity, 
purged with the hoe of discipline, fertilised with the 
tears of penitence, watered with the word of preaching, 
it shall thus abound with the wine, not of luxury, but 
of gladness, the wine which produces all manner of 
spiritual pleasure, without any uprisings of carnal 
passion. This assuredly is the wine which " rejoiceth 
the heart of man," of which, no doubt, even the angels 
drink with delight. For such is their thirst for the sal- 
vation of men that the conversion and the penance of 
sinners are to them a new source of joy. The wine 
they love best are the tears of contrition, because in 
these tears they discover the very odour of life, the 
relish of grace, the flavour of forgiveness, the joy of 
reconciliation, the health of reviving innocence, and the 
sweetness and peace of a tranquillised conscience. 

Therefore, from that one vineyard, which appeared to 
have been destroyed by the tempest of savage perse- 
cution, how many others have been propagated and 
have flourished throughout the world ! And in all these 
the Spouse has been made the keeper, so that she may 
not grieve for not having kept her first. Be comforted, 
O daughter of Sion ! If " blindness in part hath hap- 
pened in Israel/' what dost thou lose thereby ? Admire 
the mystery ; but do not be discouraged at the loss. 
Widen thy bosom, and gather in the "fulness of the 
gentiles." Say to the cities of Juda, " To you it be- 
hoved us first to preach the word of God ; but because 
you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal 
life, behold we turn to the gentiles." God indeed pro- 
posed to Moses that if he would consent to dismiss the 
prevaricating people and to leave them exposed to the 
divine vengeance, he would himself become the father 



ON THE MYSTICAL VINEYARDS 353 

of a great nation. But the holy Lawgiver refused. 
Why ? On account of the exceeding love which held 
him strongly bound to that people, and because he 
sought not the things that were his own, but the 
honour of God, and the profit of many. So great was 
the charity of this man of God. 

It seems to me, however, that, by a secret dispen- 
sation, this destiny, on account of its greatness, was 
providentially reserved to the Spouse, so that she, and 
not Moses, might grow into a mighty people. For it 
would not be right for the friend of the Bridegroom to 
snatch away the blessing that belonged to the Bride. 
Therefore, not to Moses, but to the newly-wed Bride, was 
it said, " Go ye into the whole world and preach the 
Gospel to every creature." She, I say, was certainly 
sent to grow into a great nation. Could she, indeed, 
have been destined to expand into a greater than the 
whole ? And as she came bearing peace and offering 
grace, the whole world readily yielded to her sway. 
But not as grace, so also the law. With how great 
a difference of aspect the sweetness of the former 
and the austerity of the latter present themselves 
to the conscience of each ! Surely no one can 
regard with the same sentiments that which 
condemns and that which consoles, that which holds 
to account and that which pardons, that which 
punishes with severity and that which embraces 
with love. We have not an equal welcome for 
the shadow and for the light, for wrath and 
for peace, for judgment and for mercy, for the 
figure and for the substance, for the rod and for 
the inheritance, for the curb and for the kiss. 
Heavy are the hands of Moses, as Aaron and Hur 



354 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

can bear witness."* Heavy, too, is the yoke of the law, 
according to the testimony of the apostles, who 
declared that neither themselves nor their fathers could 
bear it. A heavy burden and a light reward, since 
it is the earth that is promised ! Therefore Moses 
was not destined to grow into a great people. But 
thou, O mother Church, " having the promise of 
the life which now is and of that which is to come," 
dost easily win acceptance from all, by reason of thy 
twofold offer of a sweet yoke here and a supernal 
kingdom hereafter. Driven forth from Jerusalem, thou 
art received by the world, because thy promises are 
more attractive than thy laws are repelling. Why dost 
thou still lament the loss of a single vineyard, for which 
thou hast been so superabundantly compensated ? 
" Because thou wast forsaken, and hated, and there 
was none that passed through thee," saith the Lord, 
by His Prophet Isaias, M I will make thee to be an 
everlasting glory, a joy unto generation and genera- 
tion ; and thou shalt suck the milk of the gentiles, 
and thou shalt be nursed with the milk of kings ; and 
thou shalt know that I am the Lord, thy Saviour, and 
thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." It is in this 
sense, therefore, the Spouse declares that she has been 
made keeper in the vineyards, and that she has not 
kept her vineyard. 

Whenever I read these words, my brethren, I am 
wont to reprove myself for undertaking the charge of 
other souls, who am not able to take care of my own. 
For I take vineyards as signifying souls. If this 

* " And Moses's hands were heavy ; so they took a stone and 
put it under him, and he sat on it, and Aaron and Hur stayed 
up his hands on both sides " (Exodus xvii, 12). — (Translator.) 



ON THE MYSTICAL VINEYARDS 355 

interpretation approves itself to you, consider whether 
I may not also and consequentially regard faith as the 
vine, the virtues as the branches, good works as the 
grapes, and devotion as the wine. For as the branches 
cannot be without the vine, so neither can the virtues 
exist without faith. " Without faith," says St. Paul, " it 
is impossible to please God," and perhaps impossible to 
avoid displeasing Him; "for all that is not of faith 
is sin," as St. Paul teaches.* Therefore, those who 
" made me keeper in the vineyards " should have con- 
sidered this, viz., how I had kept my own. But, alas I 
how long a time it lay neglected, forsaken, and reduced 
to a wilderness ! Certainly, no wine was produced in 
it, the branches of virtue having withered on the barren 
stock of faith. For faith was still there, but dead. 
How could it be otherwise without works ? Such was 
I when living in the world. After my conversion to 
the Lord, I confess that I began to keep my vineyard 
somewhat better, yet still not as I ought. For who is 
sufficient for this ? Not even the holy Psalmist, since 
he declares that " Unless the Lord keep the city, he 
watcheth in vain that keepeth it." To what snares I 
remember to have even then exposed myself, snares 
set by him, whose practice it is " to shoot in secret the 
undefiled " ! How much of the produce was carried 
off from the vineyard of my soul by various cunning 
artifices, at that very time when I began to apply 
myself with greater vigilance to the keeping and the 

* The holy Preacher does not mean that every action not 
proceeding from a motive of faith is thereby sinful — the sense 
in which Michael Baius understood the words of St. Paul, and 
which was condemned by Pope St. Pius V. He simply says 
that where faith is absent it is morally impossible to avoid 
displeasing God by sin. — (Translator.) 



356 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

caring of it ! How many clusters of the excellent grapes 
of good works were either blighted by anger, lost by 
boasting, or begrimed with the smoke of vainglory ! How 
many temptations I endured from gluttony, from the 
spirit of sloth, "from pusillanimity of spirit and the 
storm " ! Such was I then. And, nevertheless, they 
"made me keeper in the vineyards," not considering 
what I was doing or had done with my own, nor attend- 
ing to the master, St. Paul, who censured their conduct 
with the words, " But if a man know not how to rule 
his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of 

God ? " 

I am amazed, my brethren, at the audacity of some, 
who, as we see, can gather nothing in their own vineyards 
but " thorns and briers," and who yet have the daring 
to intrude themselves into the vineyards of the Lord. 
No keepers, no husbandmen they, but " thieves and 
robbers." Let us say no more about them. But alas 
for me even now, because of the danger to my vine- 
yard ! Nay, the danger is now greater than ever 
before, because, having to watch over many, I am 
compelled to be less diligent and less solicitous with 
regard to my own. I am not permitted to " make a 
hedge round about it " nor to " dig in it a press." 
Alas ! "the hedge thereof " is " broken down, so that 
all who pass by the way do pluck it " ! It lies exposed 
to sadness ; it is open to anger and to impatience. The 
busy " little foxes " of " present necessities " lay it waste. 
Anxieties, suspicions, and solicitudes rush in upon it 
from every side. Rarely has it an hour's respite fromj 
wrangling crowds and vexatious disputes. I have nc 
power to prevent, no means of avoiding such invasions 

I have not so much as time to pray. With what rail 



ON THE MYSTICAL VINEYARDS 357 

of tears shall I be able to irrigate " the sterility of 
my soul " ? I meant to say " the sterility of my vine- 
yard," but the familiar words of the psalm slipped 
from my tongue. However, the sense is the same. 
Nor do I regret a mistake which reminds me that the 
language I am using is figurative, and that there is 
question here, not of a material vineyard, but of a 
spiritual soul. Therefore understand " soul " when you 
hear " vineyard." For the sterility of the former is 
bewailed under the image and name of the latter. 
Therefore, with what tears, I ask, shall I irrigate the 
sterility of my vineyard ? All its branches are withered 
" through poverty." They hang without fruit, because 
of the lack of moisture. O good Jesus ! Thou knowest 
what faggots of dry twigs I make of them and burn 
in daily sacrifice to Thee with the fire of a contrite 
heart. Let " an afflicted spirit " be a sacrifice to Thee, 
I implore. " A contrite and humbled heart, O God," 
do " not despise." 

Thus have I, my brethren, according to my imper- 
fection, applied my present text to myself. But per- 
fect will the man have to be who can say in a different 
sense, " My vineyard I have not kept." I mean, in 
that sense in which the Saviour says in the Gospel, 
" He that shall lose his life for Me, shall find it." He 
is truly qualified and worthy to be made " keeper in 
the vineyards," who is not turned aside or prevented 
by the care of his own vineyard from diligence and 
solicitude with regard to those of his brethren which 
may be committed to his charge ; because he seeks 
not the things that are his own, nor what is profit- 
able to himself, " but to many." For this reason, 
doubtless, St. Peter was made keeper in the many 



358 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

vineyards which were of the Circumcision, because he 
was a man prepared "to go to prison and to death." 
Thus he showed how little he was held captive by the 
love of his own vineyard, viz., of his own interests, in 
such a way as not to be able to look aftei those others 
entrusted to his care. With good reason was St. Paul 
also made keeper of such a forest of vineyards amongst 
the gentiles. For neither was he found over-anxious 
in the care of his own. So far from it, indeed, that he 
was " ready not only to be bound, but to die also in 
Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus." For, as 
he said elsewhere, " I fear none of these things, neither 
do I count my life more precious than myself." Ex- 
cellent valuator, who judges nothing of all that belongs 
to him to be preferable to himself ! 

Yet how many have rated of more worth than their 
own salvation a little of that vile thing we call money ! 
St. Paul would not give such a preference even to his 
life. " Neither," says he, " do I count my life more 
precious than myself." Dost thou, therefore, O Paul, 
make a distinction between thy life and thyself ? Justly 
couldst thou declare thyself to be of more value than 
anything that is thine. But how is thy life not rather 
thyself than thine ? I take it, my brethren, that when 
he said this, the Apostle was " walking in the spirit " 
and mentally "consenting to the law of God, that it is 
good." Therefore, he deemed it right to designate his 
mind, as his principal and noblest part, by the name of 
" self " rather than by any other title. The remaining 
(sensitive) part of his soul, which is evidently of an 
inferior nature and is wedded to the lower and baser 
essence, that is, to the body, not only by the office 
of imparting to it life and feeling, but also by the 



ON THE MYSTICAL VINEYARDS 359 

instinct to foster and nourish it — this sensual and 
carnal element, I say, St. Paul, as a spiritual man, 
considered unworthy to be called " self." He judged 
it better to reckon it amongst the things that belonged 
to him, than to speak of it as if it adequately repre- 
sented his personality. " When I speak oi myself," he 
seems to say, "think of that which is most excellent in 
me, and in which I stand by the grace of God, namely, 
my mind and reason. But when I talk of my life, I mean 
the inferior part of my soul which is employed in ani- 
mating the body, and constitutes with it the principle 
of concupiscence. That, I confess, I once made myself 
to be, but now I do so no longer. For I do not now walk 
according to the flesh but according to the spirit. ' I 
live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.' It is not I 
that live according to the law of my members, but it 
is I that live according to the law of my mind. And 
what if, even still, the inferior part of my soul lusts 
after the things of the flesh ? ' It is no more I that do 
it, but sin that dwelleth in me.' And hence, not me, 
but mine, should I call that in me which still savours 
of the flesh, and which is nothing else than my sensitive 
life or soul." For in truth, her carnal affection is a part 
of the soul, as is also the life which she communicates 
to the body. This life of his sensitive soul, then, is the 
life or soul which St. Paul despises in comparison with 
himself, being "ready not only to be bound, but to 
die also in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus," 
and so to lose his life, according to the counsel of Christ. 
Do you also, my brethren, give up your own wills, 
completely renounce all that gratifies the body, crucify 
your " flesh with the vices and concupiscences " thereof, 
and " mortify your members which are upon the earth." 



360 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

So shall you prove yourselves imitators of the Apostle 
because, like him, you will not have counted your lives 
more precious than yourselves. So shall you prove 
yourselves to be disciples of Christ, by losing your 
lives in this salutary way, as He recommends. And 
truly it is a more prudent course to lose it in order 
to save than to save it in order to lose it. " For, who- 
soever will save his life shall lose it." What have you 
to say to this, you who are so fastidious with regard 
to your meals, so careless about your morals ? Hippo- 
crates and his disciples teach us to save our lives in 
this world. Christ and His apostles command us to 
lose them. Which of the two do you select for your 
master ? But he makes it plain what leader he follows 
who brings forward such objections as these to the food 
provided for him by his superiors : " That is bad for the 
eyes, that causes headache, this injures the breast, that 
disorders the stomach." We may presume that each 
person speaks according to what he has learned from his 
master. Now, I ask, have you found such distinctions 
of meats in the writings of the prophets or apostles ? 
Assuredly, it was flesh and blood, and not the Spirit of 
the Father, that revealed to you this wisdom. For it is 
the wisdom of the flesh, and hear what our spiritual 
physicians think ot it. "The wisdom of the flesh," 
they tell us, " is death." Also, " the wisdom of the flesh 
is the enemy of God." Ought I to have proposed to you 
the doctrine of Hippocrates, or of Galenus, or that of the 
school of Epicurus, instead of the Gospel truth ? * 

* Hippocrates (460-361 B.C.), a native of Cos, has been called 
the Father of medical science. Instead of the superstitious 
practices and jugglery in which the healing art consisted before 
his time, he recommended two simple rules, viz., to study the 



ON THE MYSTICAL VINEYARDS 361 

But I am a disciple of Christ, and I am addressing 
Christians. Therefore, I should have sinned if I intro- 
duced any teaching foreign to the Gospel. Epicurus 
makes sensual enjoyment the supreme good. Hippo- 
crates prefers a good condition of bodily health. But 
my Master preaches the contempt of both the one and 
the other of these things. Those philosophers seek with 
all diligence, and exhort us to seek, for the means of 
sustaining or of making pleasant the soul's life in the 
body, the very thing which, according to the teaching 
of the Saviour, we ought to be prepared to lose. 

symptoms of each malady, and to "follow nature." He was the 
first to recognise the importance of well-regulated diet as a 
remedy. 

Claudius Gallenus, born at Pergamos, a.d. 130, was also a 
distinguished physician. His cures were so wonderful that they 
were attributed to magic. He is said to have written no fewer 
than 300 books on various subjects connected with his pro- 
fession. His death occurred a.d. 200 at Rome, where he had 
been held in the highest esteem by the Emperor Marcus 
Aurelius. 

Epicurus (341-270 b.c), a native of Samos, was a materialistic 
philosopher, and the Founder of the system which bears his 
name. Philosophy he defined to be the art of making life 
happy — that is, the present life, for he had no faith in a future. 
And since a happy life means a pleasant life, he recommends 
us to aim at securing the maximum of pleasure with the 
minimum of pain. For this it is necessary to restrain our 
desires within the limits of possible gratification. By pleasure 
Epicurus does not mean, as he is so often represented to 
mean, bodily satisfaction alone, nor even chiefly. In his system 
the highest place is given to intellectual enjoyment or mental 
repose, to which everything else is to be subordinated. And 
if he counsels indulgence of desires, it is with moderation 
and lest unsatisfied appetites should disturb the mind's tran- 
quillity. The system of gross sensualism, frequently confounded 
with epicureanism, differs widely from the principles laid down 
by the Sage of Samos, and is in reality the Hedonism of Aris- 
tippus, who flourished in the latter half of the fifth century, B.C. 
— (Translator.) 



362 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

What else, my brethren, sounded in our ears from 
the school of Christ when it was just now proclaimed 
that " He who loveth his life shall lose it " ? He shall 
lose it, the Lord says, either by laying it down, as a 
martyr, or by afflicting it, as a penitent. Although it 
is a kind of martyrdom to " mortify by the spirit the 
deeds of the flesh, " a martyrdom less cruel indeed in 
its terrors than that which dismembers the body with 
violence, yet more painful by reason of its duration. 
Do you not perceive that these words of my Divine 
Master condemn the wisdom of the flesh, whereby we 
are relaxed in the luxury of sensual pleasure, or we 
devote excessive attention even to the preservation of 
our bodily health ? That it is not true wisdom which 
leads to luxury you surely must have learned from holy 
Job, where he tells us that such wisdom " is not found 
in the land of them that live in delights." But he who 
discovers it cries out, " I loved her above health and 
beauty." And if wisdom is to be preferred to health 
and beauty, how much more to sensuality and tur- 
pitude ? But what will it avail us to abstain from the 
pleasures of the flesh, if we make it our daily engrossing 
care to study the diversities of constitutions and the 
distinctive properties of the various kinds of food ? 
" Pulse," thou complainest, " produces flatulency, cheese 
causes indigestion, milk gives me headache, my chest 
will not suffer me to drink cold water, cabbage makes 
me melancholy, I always feel choleric after onions, fish 
from the lake or from muddy water does not agree with 
my constitution." What ! In all rivers, fields, gardens, 
cellars, thou canst find scarcely anything fit to be thy 
food! 

Remember, I pray thee, that thou dost belong, not to 



ON THE MYSTICAL VINEYARDS 363 

the medical, but to the monastic profession ; and that 
thou shalt be judged by thy fidelity to thy religious 
engagements, not in accordance with the state of thy 
bodily health. Have mercy, I beg of thee, first, on thy 
own peace of mind, then on those who have the laborious 
office of ministering to thy taste. Be kind to the op- 
pressed community. Be kind to conscience. I say 
" to conscience," not meaning thine, but thy brother's, 
the conscience of him, namely, who, sitting beside thee, 
partakes of what is set before him, and feels inclined 
to murmur at thy singular mode of fasting. For he 
is scandalised either at thy detestable superstition, or 
at the hardness which he may be tempted to impute 
to him who has the duty of providing for thee. Thy 
singularity, I repeat, is a cause of scandal to thy brother, 
who will either judge thee to be fastidious, when he 
sees thee abstaining from the common food, and seek- 
ing for superfluities, or certainly he will accuse me of 
cruelty, because I do not make the necessary pro- 
vision for thy sustenance. Vainly do some seek to 
flatter their delicacy with the example of St. Paul, who 
tells his disciple not to drink water, but to use a little 
wine for his "stomach's sake" and his "frequent 
infirmities." For, in the first place, they ought to take 
notice that the Apostle is not here recommending such 
a drink for himself, and that the disciple has not asked 
it for himself. In the second place, it should be ob- 
served that the prescription is not for a monk but for 
a bishop, and a bishop whose life was very necessary 
to the Church, then so young and tender. This was 
St. Timothy. Give me another St. Timothy, and I 
will offer him gold to eat and balsam to drink. But it 
is thou that dispensest thyself, and treat est thyself 



364 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

with such tenderness. It makes me suspicious, I confess, 
to see thee thus indulgent to thyself. And I feel appre- 
hensive lest thou shouldst be deceived by the wisdom 
of the flesh, masquerading under the name and colour 
of discretion. At any rate, as thou art so pleased to 
have the Apostle's authority for drinking wine, I would 
remind thee, lest thou shouldst forget, that St. Paul 
uses the adjective "little." But enough of this. Let 
us now return to the Spouse. And let us learn from 
her not to keep our own vineyards but to lose them 
for the profit of others. This is especially necessary 
for superiors, who manifestly have been made " keepers 
in the vineyards " of the Bridegroom of the Church, 
Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is over all things, God 
blessed for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXXI 
On the various Visions of God. 

" O Thou, Whom my soul loveth, show me where Thou feedest, 
where Thou liest in the mid-day," 

" Show me, O Thou, Whom my soul loveth, where 
Thou feedest, where Thou liest in the mid-day." The 
Divine Word, the Bridegroom of our souls, often re- 
veals Himself, my brethren, to fervent spirits, but not 
always under the same form. Why so ? No doubt 
because they do not yet see Him " as He is." For 
this vision is fixed and immutable, as fixed and im- 
mutable as the Form of the Divinity Which is its 
Object. It simply is, suffering no change from the future 
to the present, nor from the present to the past. Take 
away " was " and " shall be " and where now is there 
any room for " change or shadow of alteration " ? But 
whatever exists in such a way that it ceases not to pass 
from that which it has been, and to tend to that which 
it shall be, by an uninterrupted process of mutation, has 
indeed a passage through an indivisible nunc of actual 
being, but certainly never is.* For how can we say 
that that is which " never continueth in the same 
state " ? Therefore that alone truly is which can neither 
be separated from itself as it has been by alteration, 
nor effaced by itself as in the future it shall be, but 
alone invincibly, unchangeably is, and remains ever 
that which it is.f Its present has co-existed with the 

* Cf. St. Augustine, Confess., lib. xi. cap. xiv. — (Translator.) 
f " Solum proinde vere est quod nee a f uit praeciditur, nee ab 
erit expungitur, sed solum atque inexpugnable remanet ei est, et 
manet quod est." Passages like this, numerous with St. Bernard, 
are the despair of the Tenderer. — (Translator.) 

3^5 



366 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

whole of the unbeginning past, and shall co-exist with 
the whole of the unending future. In this way does it 
vindicate for itself true being, that is to say, uncreated, 
interminable, immutable being. When, therefore, He 
Who is such, rather I should say, Who being infinite, 
cannot be described as such or such at all — when He 
is seen as He is, the vision must of necessity be abiding, 
as subject to no vicissitude. And thus to all who 
enjoy that sight, the one penny of the Gospel shall 
have been paid in the one same vision, which is offered 
to all. For as the Object seen is immutable in Itself, 
It must appear without variation to all those who 
behold It. And they who contemplate It can wish 
to behold nothing more desirable or beautiful, nothing 
more capable of ravishing their hearts. When, there- 
fore, shall that eager appetite give place to satiety, or 
that sweetness lose its savour, or that truth be found 
deceptive, or that eternity fall short and fail ? But if 
both the vision itself and the soul's delight in it shall 
endure for evermore, surely that is the very consum- 
mation of beatitude. For since, on the one hand, the 
contemplation of the Divine Beauty is all-sufficing and 
eternal, nothing can ever be wanting to those who 
enjoy it ; and on the other, as their love also is ever- 
lasting they can never grow weary of what they behold. 
But, my brethren, this vision is not for the present 
life. It is reserved for the next, and for them only 
who can say, " We know that when He shall appear 
we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He 
is." Now, indeed, He appears to whom He pleases 
and as He pleases, but not as He is. No sage, no saint, 
no prophet can see Him as He is, or, at least, could see 
Him so, whilst clothed in this mortal flesh. But they 
who are accounted worthy shall enjoy that vision of 



ON THE VISIONS OF GOD 367 

Him in the immortal body of the future. In the mean- 
time, therefore, He is seen, not as He is, but in the way 
He wills. So it is, indeed, even with that great luminary, 
I mean the material sun, which daily rises upon us. 
For it is never seen as it is in itself, but only by the 
light which it communicates to the air, for instance, 
or to the mountain, or to the wall. And we could not 
see it at all, if the light of our bodies, viz., the eye, did 
not bear a certain resemblance in its natural purity 
and clearness to the solar radiance. For no other 
bodily member is sensitive to light, which is doubtless 
due to their lack of any such affinity. But even the eye 
itself, when "troubled," is unable to perceive the light, 
because, namely, it has lost the similitude necessary 
thereto. Therefore, the same faculty which when 
"troubled," or clouded, cannot see the bright sun as 
having no likeness to it, may yet behold it, when ren- 
dered bright itself, on account of this resemblance. And 
it is evident that, were the eye possessed of a purity 
equal to the purity of the sun, it would be able, by 
reason of such perfect resemblance, to contemplate with 
undazzled gaze that luminous body as it is in its meri- 
dian splendour. In the same way, the Divine Sun of 
Justice, " Who enlighteneth every man that cometh 
into this world," can be seen by the soul that is 
enlightened, according to the degree in which He 
enlightens her, because of the partial resemblance 
between them. Nevertheless, He cannot yet be seen 
as He is in Himself, for the reason that the similarity 
is not yet perfect. Hence, the Psalmist exhorts us, 
saying, " Come ye to Him and be enlightened and your 
faces shall not be confounded." Thus shall it be, no 
doubt, if only we are enlightened as much as is needful, 
so that " beholding the glory of the Lord with open 



368 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

face, we are transformed into the same image, from 
glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord." 

Consequently, we must "come to Him," not, mark 
you, intrude ourselves boldly upon Him, lest the ir- 
reverent " searcher of majesty " should be " over- 
whelmed by glory." Not from place to place must we 
advance towards Him, but by a progress " from glory 
to glory," and this not the glory of the flesh, but of 
the Spirit : " as by the Spirit of the Lord." Manifestly, 
I say, it is not by our own spirit that this advance is 
to be made, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Although 
it must indeed be accomplished in our own spirit. 
Therefore, each of us draws nearer to God in proportion 
as he increases in this spiritual glory or purity. But 
he who has attained to perfect purity has arrived at 
the very presence of God. Furthermore, for those who 
have already reached that divine presence, to see Him 
as He is is the same thing as to be as He is, and no 
longer to be confounded because of any dissimilitude. 
But such happiness belongs, as I have said, to the 
life to come. In the meantine, this marvellous variety 
of forms, this infinitude of beautiful kinds in crea- 
tion, what are they but so many rays, so to speak, 
from the Sun of the Divinity, showing indeed that He 
Who is their source, truly is, but not fully declaring 
what He is ? Hence we only see what proceeds from 
Him, not His own Divine Self. But beholding all the 
works of His hands, although Himself we cannot see, 
we still feel assured that He truly exists, and that we 
have a duty to seek Him out. And grace shall not be 
wanting to the honest inquirer, nor shall ignorance 
excuse the slothful and negligent. This mode of vision 
is common to all. Jf It is within the competence of every 



ON THE VISIONS OF GOD 369 

one who has attained the use of reason, as St. Paul 
testifies, " to see clearly the invisible things of God, 
being understood by the things that are made." \ 

Another way of vision is that whereby the fathers 
were often graciously admitted to delightful familiarity 
with God as present, although not even they were 
privileged to see Him as He is in Himself, but only as 
He condescended to appear. Neither did He show 
Himself in the same form to all, but, as the Apostle 
speaks, " at sundry times and in divers manners," 
although one in Himself. For " the Lord thy God 
is one God," as He Himself said to Israel. This reve- 
lation was not indeed common, yet it was made ex- 
teriorly, that is to say, through sensible images or 
spoken words. There is still another mode of contem- 
plating the Divinity, differing from those mentioned, 
in that it is more interior. In this manifestation, God 
vouchsafes to visit in person the soul that seeks Him, 
provided, however, that she devotes herself with all 
desire and love to this holy quest. And a sign of His 
coming to us in this manner shall be, as we learn from 
one who has had the experience, that " A fire shall go 
before Him and shall burn His enemies round about." 
For it is necessary that the ardour of holy desire should 
go before His Face unto every soul which He intends 
to visit, in order to burn out the rust of vice and sin 
and prepare a place for the Lord. And then shall the 
soul know that " the Lord is nigh," when she feels 
herself inflamed with that fire ; and she shall exclaim 
with the Prophet Jeremias, " From above He hath 
sent fire into my bones and hath chastened me," or 
with the Psalmist, " My heart grew hot within me, 

and in my meditation a fire shall flame out." 
1: 2 a 



370 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

When, as sometimes happens, the Object of her de- 
sires, so ardently sought after, compassionately reveals 
Himself to the soul that sighs often, prays unceasingly 
and afflicts herself in the impatient eagerness of her 
longing ; then, as I think, she will be able, from her 
own experience, to cry with the Prophet, "Thou art 
good, O Lord, to them that hope in Thee, to the soul 
that seeketh Thee." And the angel guardian of that 
soul, who is one of the friends of the Bridegroom and 
by Him deputed to be the minister and witness of this 
secret and mutual intercourse — Oh ! how he exults ! 
How he shares in the joy and the bliss of his protege ! 
Turning to the Bridegroom, he exclaims, " Thanks to 
Thee, O Lord of Majesty, because ? Thou hast given 
her her heart's desire, and hast not withh olden from 
her the will of her lips.' " He it is, who, as the soli- 
citous companion of the soul in every place, does not 
cease to urge her forward and to admonish her with 
constant suggestions, saying, " Delight in the Lord, 
and He will give thee the petitions of thy heart " ; or, 
" Expect the Lord and keep His way " ; or, " If He 
make any delay, wait for Him, for He shall surely come 
and He shall not be slack." But to the Lord he says, 
" ' As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, 
so ' does this soul ' pant after Thee, O God.' She 
1 hath desired Thee in the night,' and Thy Spirit within 
her in the morning early hath watched for Thee." 
And again, "All the day long has she spread out her 
hands to Thee. ' Send her away because she crieth after 
Thee/ ' Return a little ' and ' be entreated ' in favour 
of this soul. ' Look down from heaven, and see, 
and visit, this desolate one.' " So does this faithful 
paranymph, who is the confidant, without envy, of 



ON THE VISIONS OF GOD 371 

the mutual love of the Bridegroom and His Bride, seek 
not his own but his Master's interests. He acts as an 
intermediary between the Spouse and her Beloved, pre- 
senting to Him her prayers, and bearing back to her 
His favours. His exhortations reanimate the Bride, 
and His intercessions appease the Bridegroom. Some- 
times also, although rarely, he actually brings them 
together into each other's presence, either snatching 
her up to Him, or leading Him down to her dwelling. 
For he is a domestic, a familiar in the palace, having no 
fear of meeting with a repulse, and daily seeing the 
" Face of the Father." 

But take care, my brethren, that you do not under- 
stand me as conceiving the union between the Word and 
the faithful soul to be something corporal and percept- 
ible to the sense. I am only speaking the language of 
St. Paul, who has said that "He who is joined to the 
Lord is one Spirit." The ecstatic elevation of the pure 
soul to God and God's loving descent to the soul I am 
trying to describe as well as I can with human words 
" comparing spiritual things with spiritual." The union 
whereof I speak, therefore, is a spiritual union, because 
" God is a Spirit," and He desires the beauty of the 
soul which He observes to be walking in the Spirit, 
and not " making provision for the flesh in its 
concupiscences." More especially if He beholds her in- 
flamed with His love. Such a Spouse, then, so disposed 
and so beloved, can by no means be content either with 
that manifestation of her Bridegroom which is given 
to the many by the things that are made, nor yet with 
that which is vouchsafed the few in visions and dreams. 
She will not be satisfied, unless, by a special privilege of 
grace, He descends into her from the height of heaven 



372 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

so that she may embrace Him with her tenderest and 
strongest affections, and in the very centre of her 
heart, and may have thus intimately united to her the 
Divine Object of her heart's desire, not in bodily form, 
but by a spiritual indwelling ; not as beheld in vision, 
but as clasped and clasping in a close embrace ot mutual 
love. Nor does it admit of any doubt that this mode 
of the divine presence is only all the more delectable 
for being so interior. For the Word of God is not a 
sounding but a " piercing " Word, not pronounceable 
by the tongue, but " efficacious in the mind," not sen- 
sible to the ear, but fascinating to the affections. His 
Face is not an object possessing beauty of form, but 
rather is the Source of all beauty and all form. It is 
not visible to the bodily eye, but rejoices the eye of the 
heart. And It is pleasing, not because of the harmony 
of Its colour, but by reason of the ardent love It excites. 
Yet even here I would not venture to say that He 
shows Himself as He is, although at the same time He 
does not appear in this kind of vision altogether dif- 
ferent from Himself as He is. For He does not con- 
stantly manifest Himself thus, even to the most fervent 
souls, nor yet in the same way to all. It is necessary that 
grace and the savour of the divine presence should vary 
in accordance with the varying desires of the soul, 
and that the infused relish of heavenly sweetness should 
please the spiritual palate in different ways and degrees. 
You must have noticed in this love-song how often He 
changes His Countenance, and with "how great a mul- 
titude of sweetness " He condescends to transform Him- 
self in the presence of His beloved one. Thus, at one 
time, He appears as a bashful Bridegroom, soliciting 
the secret embraces of the holy soul, and finding His 



ON THE VISIONS OF GOD 373 

pleasure in kisses ; at another, He reveals Himself in 
the role of a Physician, with oils and unguents, and 
that for the sake of such tender and weak souls as 
still have need of lotions and lenitives, and hence are 
designated by the name of " young maidens," a name 
expressive of delicacy. Should anyone murmur at His 
acting thus, he shall be told that " They that are in 
health need not a Physician, but they that are ill." 
Occasionally also, as a Wayfarer, He associates Himself 
with the wayfaring Spouse and young maidens, who are 
journeying forward together, and He relieves the labour 
and weariness of the way with His delightful conver- 
sation. Hence they say to each other, after their part- 
ing from Him, " Was not our heart burning within us 
whilst He spoke to us on the way ? " Most pleasant 
of companions, Who makes all to run after Him, to 
the sweetness of His voice and the attractions of virtues, 
as to the delicious odour of spiritual ointments ! Hence 
they, the Spouse and the young maidens, also say, " We 
will run to the odour of Thy ointments." Sometimes, 
again, He presents Himself as a wealthy Father of a 
family, whose house abounds with bread ; or rather as 
a magnificent and powerful Monarch, Who appears in 
order to support the pusillanimity of His poor Spouse, 
and to excite her pious cupidity by showing her all the 
riches of His glory, the treasures of His wine-presses 
and His storehouses, the abundance of His gardens 
and His fields, and lastly, leading her even into the 
privacy of His bedchamber. For " the heart of her 
Husband trusteth in her " ; and amongst all His pos- 
sessions there is nothing which He thinks ought to be 
concealed from her whom He redeemed from poverty, 
whom He has found faithful under trial, and whom He 



374 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

now embraces as worthy of His love. And so He ceases 
not to manifest Himself in one or other of these interior 
ways to the eye of the soul that seeks Him, in order 
that the word may be fulfilled which He spoke, saying, 
" Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consum- 
mation of the world." 

In all these various kinds of vision, the Beloved 
appears " sweet and mild and plenteous in mercy." 
For as the bashful Bridegroom, intent on kisses, He 
shows Himself pleasant and affectionate ; as the Phy- 
sician with His oils, His medicines, and His unguents, 
clement and rich in the bowels of piety and compassion ; 
as a Wayfarer, cheerful and affable and full of charm 
and consolation ; as a Monarch, exhibiting His treasures 
and possessions, munificent and liberal to reward, with 
a royal liberality. And so, in every verse of this Can- 
ticle you will see the Word obscurely represented under 
such images. Hence, in my opinion, this must have 
been the Prophet's meaning, where he says, " A Spirit 
before our face is Christ the Lord ; under thy shadow 
we shall live among the gentiles"; because, as St. 
Paul tells us, " we see now through a glass, in a dark 
manner," and not yet " face to face." But this is 
to be the case only whilst we "live amongst the 
gentiles." For when we are amongst the angels, it 
shall be otherwise. Then, enjoying quite the same 
happiness as these blessed spirits, we also shall see 
Him as He is, that is to say, in the " Form of God," 
and no longer under symbol or figure. For just as 
we say that the Old Dispensation possessed but the 
shadow and the image, whereas under the Gospel we 
have the very truth shining upon us, through the grace 
of Christ present in the flesh ; so may we, too, whilst 



ON THE VISIONS OF GOD 375 

here below, be said to live in the shadow, in comparison 
with that light of truth wherewith we shall be illumined 
in the world to come. No one will deny this, except 
one who does not agree with the Apostle, when he 
says, " We know in part and we prophesy in part," 
and, " I do not count myself to have apprehended." 
For surely there must be a difference between walking 
by faith and walking by vision. And therefore, whilst 
the holy soul lives here in the shadow of Christ, the 
holy angel rejoices in the splendour of His unclouded 
glory. 

Yet a good thing is this shadow of the faith, which 
tempers the light to the weak eye, and at the same 
time strengthens the eye to bear the light. For, as it 
is written, Christians should be constantly employed in 
" purifying their hearts by faith." Faith, therefore, in- 
stead of extinguishing, guards the light. Whatever that 
Object is which the angels are already contemplating, 
the same, no doubt, faith preserves for me, keeping it 
hidden away in its faithful bosom, to be revealed at the 
proper time. Is it not well, my brethren, to hold, even 
thus wrapped up, a treasure which we could not hold un- 
covered ? Even the Lord's Mother herself lived in the 
shadow of faith, for to her was it said " And blessed art 
thou that hast believed." She had also a shadow from 
the Body of Christ, as the Angel implied when he told 
her " And the power of the Most High shall overshadow 
thee." For that is no slight shadow which is thrown by 
the power of the Most High. And truly there was power 
in the Flesh of Christ, which overshadowed the Virgin, 
so that, by means of the intervening screen of this 
vivifying Body, she might be enabled to endure the 
presence of the Divine Majesty and bear the splendours 



376 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

of the Light inaccessible, a thing otherwise quite im- 
possible to a mortal woman. That is power indeed, by 
which every opposing power is vanquished. It is at 
once a power and a shadow, by which the demons are 
put to flight and men sheltered and defended. Or cer- 
tainly an invigorating power and a cooling shadow. 

We live then, my brethren, in the shadow of Christ, 
whilst we walk by faith and feed on His Flesh as the 
source of our life. For Christ's Flesh " is Meat indeed." 
And consider, whether it may not be for this reason 
He is even now represented as appearing in pastoral 
guise, if I may so speak, in this place, where the Spouse 
seems to address Him as if He were one of the shep- 
herds. " Show me," she says, " where Thou feedcst'^ 
where Thou liest in the mid-day." A " Good Shep- 
herd," in truth, " Who giveth His life for His sheep ! " 
He gives His life for them, and His Flesh to them. 
His life is their ransom, His Flesh their food. Strange 
thing ! He is at once their Pastor, their Pasture, and 
their Price ! 

But the conclusion of this discourse is still a long 
way off. The subject is a large one, and compre- 
hends numerous grandeurs and sublimities, so that it 
cannot be compressed within narrow limits. Hence it 
seems best to make here an interruption rather than 
an end. But memory must watch in the interval, and 
not let slip what has been said. For in the next 
sermon, I shall resume this subject, and begin at the 
point where I now leave off, according as I may be 
inspired by Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom 
of the Church, Who is over all things, God blessed for 
ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXXII 

On the different Ways in which the Word 
presents Himself to different Souls, and on 
the Sources of Good and Evil Thoughts. 

" Show me where Thou Jeedest, where Thou liest in the mid-day." 

" Show me where Thou feedest, where Thou liest in the 
mid-day." Hither, my brethren, have we come, and here 
we begin. But before proceeding with the explanation 
of this vision and this loving entreaty, I think it would 
be well if I briefly recapitulated what has been said of 
the other visions already dealt with, showing how they 
may be spiritually accommodated to ourselves, accord- 
ing to the desires and the merits of each. For in this 
way, the understanding of those, if yet it be granted 
us, will facilitate the comprehension of this which I pur- 
pose to discuss in the present sermon. The undertaking 
is far from being an easy one. Although the language 
in which the visions or figures are described seems to 
refer directly to bodies and things of the body, yet 
what is meant to be conveyed to us is something spiri- 
tual, and hence the causes and significations have to 
be spiritually investigated. But who is capable of ex- 
amining and comprehending the so various affections 
and advances of the soul to which is dispensed the 
multiform grace of the presence of the Bridegroom ? 
Yet, if we enter into ourselves, and if the Holy Spirit 
deigns to reveal to us by His light the work which He 

377 



378 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

condescends to busy Himself constantly about in our 
interior, I think we shall not remain altogether with- 
out understanding of these matters. For I trust that 
" we have received, not the spirit of this world, but 
the Spirit That is of God, that we may know the things 
that are given us from God/' 

Therefore, if to any amongst us, as to the holy 
Psalmist, it has been given to feel intensely that it 
is " good to adhere to God," or, to speak more plainly, 
if there be amongst us such a " man of desires " that 
he "desires to be dissolved and to be with Christ," 
and desires this ardently, thirsts for it eagerly, and 
meditates on it night and day, he certainly shall re- 
ceive the Word not otherwise than in the character 
of a Bridegroom, at the time of his visitation. That 
is to say, at the hour when he feels himself closely em- 
braced in his interior, with the arms, so to speak, of 
divine wisdom, and experiences in consequence a sweet 
infusion of holy love. For " his heart's desire " has 
been given him, whilst still sojourning in the body. 
Yet only in part, and that but for a time, and a short 
time. For the Beloved, after having been sought and 
found with so many watchings, so many supplications, 
so much labour, such floods of tears, suddenly slips 
away, when we are supposing that we still hold Him 
fast. Then, again, He unexpectedly confronts us as, 
weeping, we pursue Him, and allows Himself to be 
taken hold of, but not to be detained, for He once 
more flies suddenly away from our grasp. However, 
if the favoured soul be instant in prayer with tears, 
He will come back soon to her, and " will not withhold 
from her the will of her lips." But very soon He again 
disappears, and is no longer seen, unless He be followed 



SOURCES OF GOOD AND EVIL THOUGHTS 379 

with the fulness of the heart's desire. In this way, 
therefore, even in our exile here below, we may often 
experience the joy of the Bridegroom's presence, yet 
not unto satiety. For although the visitation brings 
us gladness the withdrawal causes pain in proportion. 
And so long must the beloved Spouse endure this 
vicissitude of consolation and abandonment until, 
having once laid aside the burden of corporeal flesh, 
she, too, learns how to fly, lifted up on the wings of holy 
desires, and to make her way unimpeded through the 
far-spreading aerial plains of divine contemplation, 
with liberty of spirit following her Beloved " whither- 
soever He goeth." Yet not to every soul does He com- 
municate Himself in this manner, even momentarily, 
but only to that which, by the fervour of her devotion, 
and the eagerness of her desires and the surpassing 
tenderness of her love, proves herself to be a true 
spouse, and worthy that the Beloved, in coming to 
pay her a visit, should "put on His beauty," assuming 
the form of a Bridegroom. For she that is not yet 
found so disposed, but rather afflicted at the recol- 
lection of her sins, ought to say to God, speaking in 
the bitterness of her soul, " Condemn me not." And 
she who has still to struggle against violent temptation 
from her " own concupiscence, being drawn away and 
allured," it is not a Bridegroom such a one needs, 
but a Physician. Therefore, she receives, instead of 
kisses and caresses, only oils and unguents as remedies 
for her wounds. Have we not often felt this in our- 
selves ? Has not this been our own experience in prayer, 
still daily afflicted as we are by our present excesses, 
and tortured by the memory of the past ? O good 
Jesus, from how great a bitterness of soul Thy advent 



380 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

has frequently delivered me ! How often, after anxious 
tears, after " unspeakable groanings " and sobbings hast 
Thou not anointed my wounded conscience with the 
unction of Thy mercy, and soothed it with an infusion 
of the " oil of gladness " ! How often has it not hap- 
pened that the prayer, which found me almost aban- 
doned by hope, restored to me peace and joy with the 
assurance of pardon ! They who have had the same 
experience, " behold they know " how truly the Lord 
Jesus is called a Physician, " Who healeth the broken 
of heart, and bindeth up their wounds." And such as 
cannot claim experimental knowledge of this, must 
believe Him when He says of Himself, "The Spirit 
of the Lord is upon me, wherefore He hath anointed 
Me ; He hath sent Me to preach to the meek, to heal 
the contrite of heart." But if they still doubt, let 
them draw nigh to Him and put the matter to trial. 
So, from what happens in themselves, they shall come 
to an understanding of His words, " I will have mercy 
and not sacrifice." But let us now pass on to consider 
the remaining points of our subject. 

There are some, my brethren, who, tired of spiritual 
things, lapse into tepidity, and in a certain faintness 
of the spirit, walk sadly on in the ways of the Lord, 
approaching every duty with a dry and heavy heart, 
and often giving way to discontent and murmuring. 
Weary and desolate, they are heard to complain of the 
length of the days and of the length of the nights. 
With holy Job they say, " If I lie down to sleep I shall 
say, when shall I rise ? and again I shall look for the 
evening." Therefore, whenever we happen to suffer any- 
thing like this, if only the Lord out of pity should meet 
us " in the way in which we are walking," and, being 



SOURCES OF GOOD AND EVIL THOUGHTS 381 

Himself from heaven, should begin to talk to us of the 
things of heaven, or to sing us a sweet and soothing 
song of the canticles of Si on, or to entertain us with 
an account of the city of God, of the peace of that 
city, the eternity of that peace, and the immutability of 
that eternity, I assure you, my brethren, such delight- 
ful conversation would be as a soft litter to the drowsy 
and weary wayfarers, relieving at once the languor of 
the mind and the fatigue of the body. Does it not seem 
to you that such was the experience of him and such 
the object of his prayer, who said, " My soul hath 
slumbered through heaviness ; strengthen Thou me in 
Thy words " ? And when his request was granted, did 
he not exclaim, "Oh, how I have loved Thy law, O 
Lord ! " ? Our meditations on our Bridegroom, the 
Word, on His Glory, His Beauty, His Power, His 
Majesty, may be considered as His conversations with 
us. A ad not only that, but even when with fervent 
hearts we ponder His testimonies and the " judgments 
of His Mouth," and " meditate on His law, day and 
night," let us be firmly convinced that the Beloved 
is there present and speaking to us, so that, charmed 
with His words, we may not grow weary of the labour. 
Whenever, therefore, my brethren, you are conscious 
of entertaining such thoughts in your souls, do not 
mistake them for your own reflections, but acknowledge 
them to be the interior speech of Him Who declares 
by the mouth of His Prophet, " I (am He) That speak 
justice." For there is, in some respects, the closest re- 
semblance * between the thoughts of our mind and the 

* " Son, observe diligently the motions of nature and grace for 
they move very opposite ways and very subtlely, and can hardly be 
distinguished but by a spiritual man, and one that is internally 
illuminated " — Imitation, Bk. III. ch. liv. — (Translator.) 



382 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

words of Truth speaking within us. Hence, it is no easy 
matter for a man to distinguish the words which his 
heart utters from those which it simply hears, unless he 
prudently attends to the teaching of Christ, where He 
tells us in the Gospel that " from the heart come forth 
evil thoughts," and where He says, " Why do you think 
evil in your hearts ? " and, " When he speaketh a 
lie, he speaketh of his own." And the Apostle simi- 
larly asserts " not that we are sufficient to think any- 
thing of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency 
is from God." It is, of course, only the sufficiency to 
think anything good that he refuses to admit in us. The 
evil, therefore, that we revolve in our minds is our own 
thought ; the good is the secret word of God. Our 
hearts speak the former, they only listen to the latter. 
" I will hear," says the Psalmist, " what the Lord God 
will speak in me, for He will speak peace unto His 
people." Consequently, it is God Who speaks peace, 
piety, and justice in us. Of ourselves we cannot think 
of such things, we do but hear them. On the other 
hand, murders, uncleannesses, thefts, blasphemies, and 
such like come forth from the heart. These are not 
heard by it, but spoken. For "the fool hath said in 
his heart, there is no God." And therefore "hath the 
wicked provoked God, for he hath said in his heart, 
He will not require it." But there is something besides, 
which is indeed felt by the heart, and yet is not a word 
uttered by the heart. For it does not come forth from 
the heart as our own thought. Neither is it the same 
as that other word, which, as I said, is spoken by Truth 
to the heart, viz., the word of the Word, since this word 
is evil. But it is inspired by the opposing powers, as one 
of the things sent " by evil angels " (Immissiones per 



SOURCES OF GOOD AND EVIL THOUGHTS 383 

angelos malos — Ps. cxxvii. 49). So we read that the 
demon put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son 
of Simon, as an evil word, to betray the Lord. 

But who is there that watches so vigilantly and con- 
stantly over his interior feelings, whether only in him, 
or also from him, that in every illicit emotion of the 
heart he clearly distinguishes between the natural cor- 
ruption of his own mind and the bite of the serpent ? 
In my opinion, no mortal man is capable of this, unless 
he who, enlightened by the Paraclete, has received 
that special grace which the Apostle mentions amongst 
the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and names the discernment 
of spirits. One may guard his heart with all possible 
vigilance, according to Solomon ; and with most watch- 
ful attention observe all its interior motions ; one may 
be long practised and have frequent experience in these 
matfers, yet never shall he be able to discriminate with 
certitude between the home-sprung evil and the hell- 
inspired. For " who can understand sins ? " But it 
concerns us very little to know whence the evil is, as 
long as we perceive that it is really within us. Rather, 
whatsoever its source, we should make it our business 
to watch and pray assiduously, lest we should give it 
our consent. The Psalmist prays against both evils, 
viz., that originating from our own hearts, and that 
inspired by the demon, when he says, " From my secret 
sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of others spare 
Thy servant." I cannot deliver unto you, my brethren, 
that which I have not myself received. But I have not 
received, I must candidly confess, any means of dis- 
tinguishing infallibly between the evil that is begotten 
of the heart and that which is injected by the enemy. 
Both are truly evils, and proceed from an evil source ; 



384 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

both are in the heart, yet not both of the heart. Of 
that much I am certain, although I am not able to 
determine what is to be attributed to the domestic, and 
what to the foreign enemy. However, as I have already 
remarked, such ignorance is attended with no great 
danger. 

But there is another matter wherein error would un- 
questionably be perilous, nay, even pernicious, viz., in 
assigning to their respective sources the good and the 
evil which we discover within us. And here we have 
duly prescribed for us a certain and definite rule lest we 
should credit ourselves with what belongs to God, mis- 
taking the divine visitation for fruit of our own hearts, 
or, on the other hand, attribute to grace what is but 
the product of nature. For between these two there is 
the same distinction as between good and evil. Our 
rule, therefore, is this, that nothing of evil must be 
ascribed to God, nor anything of good to ourselves, 
except perhaps that which the heart may have pre- 
viously conceived through the grace of the Word. For 
"a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can 
an evil tree bring forth good fruit." But I think enough 
has now been said to show how much of the contents 
of our minds is due to God, and how much to ourselves, 
or the evil spirit ; enough, I say, yet nothing super- 
fluous, since I want the enemies of grace * to under- 
stand clearly that, without grace, the human heart is 
incapable of even a good thought, but its " sufficiency is 
from God " ; and that the good which is conceived is 

* The Saint is here alluding to Abelard and his followers 
who went beyond Pelagius himself in their attempts to depre- 
ciate grace, Which, according to them; is nothing supernatural 
at all, but either the very light of our natural reason, or at most, 
the example of Christ. — (Translator.) 



SOURCES OF GOOD AND EVIL THOUGHTS 385 

rather the voice of the Lord than the offspring of the 
mind. If, then, you hear that voice, you will no longer 
be ignorant " whence it cometh, or whither it goeth," 
knowing that it " cometh from God and goeth " to 
the heart. But see to it that the word which comes 
forth from the Mouth of God does not return to Him 
empty, " but that it shall do and prosper in all the 
things for which He sent it." Thus shall you also be 
able to say, " His grace in me hath not been void." 

Happy the soul to which the Bridegroom, as her 
inseparable Companion, everywhere shows Himself 
affable, and gives to experience uninterruptedly the 
sweetness of His divine eloquence ! She certainly will 
have it in her power at all times to deliver herself 
from the troubles and temptations that have their 
source in the flesh, whilst she occupies herself in " re- 
deeming the time because the days are evil." Weari- 
ness and distress can have no access to such a soul, 
for, as it is written, " Whatsoever shall befall the 
just man, it shall not make him sad." 

Now, it seems to me, my brethren, that the Word 
also manifests Himself as a great Father of a family, 
or rather under the form of Royal Majesty, to those 
who, as the Psalmist says, have " come to a deep 
heart," viz., have their hearts filled with noble courage, 
and are rendered more magnanimous by great liberty of 
spirit and purity of conscience. I mean such as are 
wont to dare the difficult things, to penetrate the deep 
things with a kind of restless yet commendable curi- 
osity, to lay hold of the high things and to undertake 
the perfect things, and that, not so much in the phy- 
sical, as in the spiritual order. For these are found 
worthy, by reason of the greatness of their faith, to be 

I. 26 



386 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

admitted to the fulness of every grace. And amongst 
all the storerooms of wisdom, I do not think there is 
a single one from which "the Lord, the God of all 
knowledge " judges that they should be excluded who 
show themselves as desirous of truth as they are strangers 
to vanity. Such a one was Moses, who dared to say 
to God, " If I have found favour in Thy sight, show 
me Thy Face." Such was St. Philip, who asked that 
the Father should be shown to himself and to his 
fellow-apostles. Such, too, was St. Thomas, who re- 
fused to believe unless with his own fingers he touched 
the Saviour's Wounds, and put his hand into His pierced 
Side. His faith, indeed, was weak, but was founded, in 
a sense, in his greatness of soul, as is clear from his bold- 
ness in demanding such a proof. Anothei such was King 
David, for he also desired to see the Lord, and said to 
Him, " My heart hath said to Thee : my face hath sought 
Thee, Thy Face, O Lord, will I still seek." These men, 
accordingly, had the courage to ask for great things, 
because they were themselves great men. And they 
obtained that which they had the daring to solicit, ac- 
cording to the promise made to them, namely, " Every 
place that your foot shall tread upon shall be yours." 
For great faith merits a great reward. And as far as 
you extend the foot of your confidence in the goods 
of the Lord, so far shall be yours. 

Thus we find that Moses spoke to God face to face. 
The holy Legislator deserved to see the Lord openly 
and not " in a dark manner " and under symbols and 
figures, whilst the Lord Himself declared that He 
revealed Himself to other prophets only in visions and 
spoke to them only in dreams. St. Philip, likewise, 
according to the petition of his heart, was shown the 



SOURCES OF GOOD AND EVIL THOUGHTS 387 

Father in the Son, no doubt, in the words immediately 
addressed to him, " Philip, he that seeth Me, seeth the 
Father also," and, " I am in the Father and the Father 
in Me." To St. Thomas, also, his request was granted, 
for the Word gave Himself to him to be handled accord- 
ing to his heart's desire, and did not " defraud him of 
the will of his lips." What shall I say of David ? Does 
not he, too, give us to understand that he was not 
defrauded of the object of his desire, when he declares 
that he will not " give sleep to his eyes, nor slumber 
to his eyelids, nor rest to his temples, until he found a 
place for the Lord " ? Thus the Bridegroom will appear 
in His greatness to such great souls, and will <f do great 
things for them." He will " send forth His light and 
His truth, and conduct them and bring them unto His 
holy hill and into His tabernacles," so that each of 
them shall be able to say with Mary, " He that is 
mighty hath done great things for me." Their eyes 
shall behold the " King in his beauty " guiding their 
steps towards the " beautiful places of the desert," to 
the home of the roses and the lilies of the valleys, and 
to the pleasant gardens, and to the refreshing fountains, 
and to the storehouses replenished with delights, and 
to the fragrant spices, and lastly, even to the privacy 
of the royal bedchamber. 

Such, my brethren, are the " treasures of wisdom and 
knowledge " concealed in the abode of the Bridegroom. 
Such are the pastures of life, prepared for the nourish- 
ment of holy souls. " Blessed is the man that hath 
fulfilled his desire with them." Only let me exhort 
him not to wish to keep to himself alone that which 
would suffice for many. It is, perhaps, for this reason 
that after the mention of all these treasures the 



388 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Bridegroom is described as appealing in the form of a 
Shepherd, viz., to remind him who has received so much 
grace, of his obligation to feed the flock of the simple. 
By the simple I mean those who have neither the power 
to attain to such things of themselves, nor yet the 
courage to go out into the pastures without their shep- 
herd. The prudent Spouse, conscious of this, begs to 
be shown where He feeds and reposes in the mid-day 
heat, yearning, as her words indicate, to be fed and to 
feed with Him, and under His protection. For she does 
not think it safe to drive her flock far from the Supreme 
Pastor, on account of the hostile incursions of the 
wolves, particularly of the wolves that come to us in 
sheep's clothing. Hence, she is anxious to feed in the 
same pastures with Him and to repose in the same 
shade. And she explains the reason of her request when 
she adds, " Lest I begin to wander after the flocks of 
Thy companions." These are they who wish to appear 
the friends of the Bridegroom, but are not. And 
although they are more concerned to feed their own 
flocks than His, yet they keep crying out deceitfully 
from time to time, " Lo, here is Christ, lo, there is 
Christ," in order to seduce the many, to lead them away 
from the flock of the Lord, and unite them to their 
own. Thus far I have been occupied with the obvious 
sense of my text. The underlying spiritual signification 
shall engage me in my next discourse, in which I hope 
to communicate to you whatever lights may, mean- 
time, be vouchsafed me in answer to your prayers, 
through the gracious mercy of the Bridegroom of the 
Church, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is over all things, 
God blessed for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXXIII 

On the three Objects of the devout Soul's 
Quest, on the Mystical Meridian, and the 
four Kinds of Temptation. 

" Show me, O Thou Whom my soul loveth, where Thoujeedest, where 
Thou liest in the mid-day, lest I begin to wander ajter the flocks 
oj Thy companions." 

" Show me, O Thou Whom my soul loveth, where 
Thou feedest, where Thou liest in the mid-day." 
' Show me why Thou judgest me so," exclaims another 
voice, that, namely, of holy Job, wherein, however, he 
does not find fault with the sentence pronounced against 
him, but merely inquires the cause, desiring instruction 
in the truth rather than deliverance from his afflictions. 
The Psalmist likewise makes a similar prayer in these 
words, " Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me and teach 
me Thy paths." And what he means by " ways " and 
" paths " he explains in another place, where he says, 
" He hath led me on the paths of justice." These 
three things, therefore, the soul that is devoted to 
God's service will constantly seek, viz., justice, and 
judgment, and the place where her Bridegroom's glory 
dwell eth, as the way in which she should walk, the 
landmarks wherewith she should guide her progress, 
and the home whither she should direct her steps. 
Of this home we read in the Psalms, " One thing 
I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after : that 
I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of 

389 



390 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

my life." Also, " I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of 
Thy house ; and the place where Thy glory dwelleth. ,, 
Of the other two, namely, justice and judgment, the 
same inspired author says, " Justice and judgment are 
the preparation of Thy throne." Rightly then, does 
the devout soul seek these three things, since they are 
nothing else than the throne of God and the " prepara- 
tion " of His throne. And it is the glorious prerogative 
of the Spouse that all alike concur to the consum- 
mation of her virtue, so that she is rendered beautiful 
by the form of justice, cautious by the knowledge of 
judgment, and chaste by the desire of the Bridegroom's 
presence or glory. Such assuredly the Spouse of the 
Lord ought to be, beautiful, enlightened, and chaste. 
Therefore, this petition, which I have put last, has for 
object a knowledge of the Bridegroom's dwelling. For 
the Spouse requests of Him Whom her soul loveth, that 
He would show her where He feedeth, where He lieth 
in the mid-day. 

And notice, in the first place, how beautifully she 
distinguishes the love of the spirit from the love of the 
flesh ; for, whilst desirous to designate her Beloved by 
affection rather than by name, she nevertheless does not 
simply say, " Thou Whom I love," but, " O Thou Whom 
my soul loveth " ; and thus she gives us to understand 
that her love is spiritual. In the next place, consider 
diligently what is that which pleases her so much is 
the place of His pasturage. Nor should you pass over 
without examination what she says of the meridian 
hour, and the fact that she inquires particularly about 
the place where He at one and the same time feeds 
and reposes, which is a sign of great security. For, as 
I think, the words " where Thou liest " are added in 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 391 

order to signify that in this place there is no need to 
stand and to keep watch and ward over the flock, since 
even whilst the shepherd lies down to repose in the 
shade, the sheep in safety may wander at will over the 
pastures. Happy land where the sheep go in and out 
as they please with nothing to make them afraid ! 
Who will grant me that I may behold you, most 
blissful flock, that I may feed on the celestial moun- 
tains with the ninety-nine, which, as we read, the 
Divine Pastor left there whilst He graciously de- 
scended to seek the one that had strayed from Him ! 
Securely, no doubt, does He recline close to that flock, 
since He did not hesitate even to withdraw to a dis- 
tance from it, knowing that He left it in safety. With 
good reason, then, does the Spouse sigh after those 
heavenly hills. With good reason does she yearn for 
that place of pasture and peace, of tranquillity and 
security, of exultation, of wonder, and ecstatic bliss. 
For even I who, miserable man that I am, still sojourn 
here at so great a distance from that " land of de- 
lights," and salute it only from afar — behold, even I 
am moved to tears at the thought of it, and feel ex- 
cited to make my own the sentiments and words of 
those who said, " Upon the rivers of Babylon, there 
we sat and wept when we remembered Sion." I, too, 
feel prompted to cry with the Spouse and with the 
Psalmist, " Praise thy God, O Sion, because He hath 
strengthened the bolts of thy gates, He hath blessed 
thy children within thee ; Who hath placed peace in 
thy borders, and filled thee with the fat of corn." Who 
would not desire to feed there where he finds peace, fat- 
ness, and fulness ? That place can surely know neither 
fear, nor want, nor weariness. For there is a safe abode 



392 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

in paradise, sweet food in the Word Divine, abounding 
wealth in eternity. 

We also have the Word in this place of our sojourning, 
but the Word made flesh. And truth is set before us,* 
but under a sacramental veil. The angels feed on the 
fatness of the corn and eat their fill of the pure grain. 
But we, whilst here below, have to be satisfied with the 
husk of a Sacrament, with the bran of the Flesh, with 
the chaff of the letter, with the dark shroud of faith. 
And these are the things whose taste brings death if 
they be not seasoned in some degree with the first 
fruits of the Spirit. Assuredly I shall find "death in 
the pot " unless its contents are sweetened with the 
meal of the Prophet.f For without the Spirit the 
Sacrament is received unto judgment, the Flesh profiteth 
nothing, the letter killeth, and faith is dead. But " it 
is the Spirit that quickeneth " these elements so that I 
may live by them. Yet, however abundantly enriched 
with spiritual grace, the husk of the Sacrament can 
never surely taste as sweet as the fatness of the pure 
grain, nor faith as vision, nor the memorial as the 
unveiled presence, nor time as eternity, nor the reflection 
as the Face, nor the form of a servant as the Figure of 
God. For in all matters of this nature, I am rich indeed 
in faith, but poor in understanding. And unquestionably 
faith and understanding have not an equally pleasant 
flavour, since the former stands for merit and the 
latter for reward. You perceive, therefore, my brethren, 
tfrnt there is as great a£ difference between the spiritual 
food of the blessed above and that of sojourners here 
below, as there is between the places of their habitation ; 
and that, as the heavens are exalted above the earth, 

* Cf. The Imitation, Bk. IV, ch. ». f Cf. 4 Kings iv. 39-41. 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 393 

so are the blessings poured out upon dwellers in paradise 
superior to those bestowed upon mortal men. 

Let us hasten, then, my children, let us hasten to 
that safer place, to that sweeter pasture, to those richer 
and more fertile fields. Let us hasten thither where 
we may dwell without fear, abound beyond the possi- 
bility of want, feast without satiety. For Thou, O 
Lord of Sabbath,* Who judgest all with tranquillity, 
dost likewise feed all with security in that happy land. 
Thou art there both Lord of Hosts and Pastor of the 
sheep. Therefore, Thou reclinest whilst Thou feedest 
Thy blessed ones. But not so with us. Thou wert 
standing when, looking down from heaven, Thou didst 
behold one of Thy little sheep — I speak of the Proto- 
martyr Stephen — surrounded by wolves upon earth. 
And hence I pray, " Show me where Thou feedest, 
where Thou liest in the mid-day," that is, during 
the whole day ; for there the whole day is as the 
meridian, and knows no decline. Therefore, " Better 
is one day in Thy courts above thousands," because 
that one day has never a sunset. But perchance 
it had a sunrise when the " sanctified day dawned 
upon us," "through the bowels of the mercy of our 
God in which the Orient from on high hath visited us." 
Then, truly " we received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst 
of Thy temple," when " in the midst of the shadow of 
death," the light of the dayspring suddenly broke upon 
us, and "in the morning we beheld the glory of the 
Lord." How " many kings and prophets have desired to 
see " this light " and have not seen " ? Wherefore ? For 

* In the Latin, "Domine Sabaoth," Lord of Hosts; but the 
context seems to require both here and elsewhere, "Domine 
Sabbati," Lord of Rest (cf. Mark ii. 28), and so I have rendered 
it. — (Translator.) 



394 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

no other reason than because it was still night, and 
that longed-for morning to which mercy was promised 
had not yet dawned. Hence also King David made 
this prayer, " Cause me to hear Thy mercy in the 
morning ; for in Thee have I hoped." 

The aurora, so to speak, of this spiritual day began 
with the announcement of the Sun of Justice by the 
Archangel Gabriel, when by the operation of the Holy 
Ghost a virgin conceived God in her womb, and, still 
a virgin, brought Him forth ; and it continued as long 
as He was seen on earth and conversed amongst men. 
For during all that time the light appeared so weak 
and as if in truth the light of the aurora, that scarcely 
anyone realised that the day had dawned upon men. 
And indeed " if they had known they would never have 
crucified the Lord of glory." Hence, to the little 
company of disciples it was said, " So far there is little 
light in you," * because, namely, it was yet only the 
aurora or beginning, or rather but the first evidence of 
dawn, whilst the Sun still hid His beams instead of 
radiating them around the world. In the same sense 
St. Paul exclaimed, "the night is passed and the day 
is at hand," thus indicating that there was as yet so 
little light that he considered it more correct to say 
"the day is at hand" than "the day has dawned." 
Now, my brethren, when did he speak thus ? It was 
certainly after the Divine Sun had returned from be- 
neath the earth and had already mounted to the height 
of heaven. With how much greater truth might the 
same words have been spoken whilst the aurora was 

* This is St. Bernard's interpretation of the text " adhuc 
modicum lumen in vobis est " (John xii. 35) which is commonly 
rendered, " Yet a little while the light is among you." — (Trans- 
lator.) 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 395 

overcast, as it were, by the dense cloud, of the " like- 
ness of sinful flesh," that is, by a Body resembling 
our own in Its liability to all manner of suffering and 
infirmity, so that neither the bitterness of death nor the 
shame of the cross was wanting to It ? With how much 
greater truth, I say, could the light have been then de- 
scribed as excessively faint and feeble, and proceeding 
apparently rather from the aurora than from the actual 
presence of the Sun ? 

Therefore, the whole life of Christ upon earth was an 
aurora of twilight and obscurity, that is, until the 
brighter effulgence of the Sun's presence in the sky, 
after His setting and glorious rising, caused the dim- 
ness of dawn to disappear before the clearness of morn- 
ing, and night was " swallowed up in victory." So we 
read in St. Mark, " And very early in the morning, the 
first day of the week, they came to the sepulchre, the 
sun being now risen." Surely it was morning since the 
Sun of Justice had risen. But He derived a new love- 
liness from His Resurrection, and a more placid radi- 
ance than He had manifested before, for " if we have 
known Christ according to the flesh ; but now we know 
Him so no longer." It is written in the psalms, " He 
is clothed with beauty : the Lord is clothed with 
strength and hath girded Himself," because He has 
stripped Himself of the clouds, so to speak, of our 
mortal infirmities and put on the garments of 
His glory. Having ascended above the horizon, 
the Sun began to diffuse His influence gradually 
over the earth, and little by little to make His 
light and His heat everywhere more sensibly felt. 
But however much He increases His warmth and 
strength, however much He multiplies and scatters 



396 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

His rays over the whole course of this our mortal ex- 
istence — for He shall abide with us unto " the con- 
summation of the world " — yet He shall never attain 
here to His meridian splendour, nor be seen in that 
fulness and perfection of His glory, in which He is 
to be contemplated hereafter, by those, that is to say, 
whom He shall deem Worthy of this vision. O true 
meridian, plenitude of light and heat, when the Sun 
stands still at His zenith, banishing the shadows, 
drying up the marshes, extinguishing all noxious 
odours ! O solstice everlasting, when the day no more 
declines ! O light of the noontide ! O happy season, 
representing at once the genial softness of spring, the 
loveliness of summer, the richness of autumn, and lest 
I should seem to omit anything, the peace and rest of 
winter ! Or certainly, if you are better pleased with this, 
winter alone is then " over and gone." " Show me," 
says the Spouse, " this place of such brightness, peace, 
and plenitude, in order that, just as Jacob still abiding 
in the flesh beheld the Lord 'face to face and his soul 
was saved alive ' ; or as Moses saw Him, not like the 
other prophets, in symbols, signs and dreams, but in 
a far more excellent way, unknown to all save God and 
himself ; or as Isaias, when the eyes of his heart had 
been opened, contemplated Him on His 'high and 
elevated throne ' ; or even as St. Paul gazed with mortal 
eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ, what time he was 
rapt up to the third heaven and heard things un- 
utterable — that so I, too, in spiritual rapture may 
deserve to see Thee in Thy light and in Thy beauty, 
and contemplate Thee where Thou feedest Thy flock 
on richer pastures than here on earth, and reposest with 
greater security. 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 397 

" Here on earth also Thou dost feed Thy sheep, yet 
not unto fulness. Neither mayst Thou lie down here, but 
must rather stand and watch because of the ' terrors of 
the night.' Alas ! we have in our present pasture neither 
clear light, nor full feeding, nor a safe dwelling. And 
hence I pray, ' Show me where Thou feedest, where Thou 
liest in the mid-day.' Thou sayest I am blessed when I 
hunger and thirst after justice. But what is such blessed- 
ness to the happiness of those who are ' filled with the 
good things of Thy house,' who ' feast and rejoice before 
the Lord and are delighted with gladness ' ? Neverthe- 
less, Thou dost pronounce me blessed if I sutler any- 
thing for justice sake. And certainly there is pleasure, 
though not security, in being fed where one has to 
fear suffering. But is it not a painful pleasure to be 
fed and afflicted at one and the same time ? Every- 
thing here below falls short of perfection ; many things 
are contrary to my will ; and nothing is safe. When 
wilt Thou ' fill me with joy with Thy Countenance ' ? 
' Thy Face, O Lord, will I seek.' For Thy Face is the 
noontide. O ' Show me where Thou feedest, where 
Thou liest in the mid-day ' ! I know well enough where 
Thou feedest standing. But show me where Thou 
feedest and reclinest. Neither am I ignorant where 
Thou are wont to feed Thy flock at other times. But 
I desire to know ' where Thou feedest, where Thou 
liest in the mid-day.' For during the whole period of 
my mortal career, I have been accustomed, under Thy 
care, to feed myself and others upon Thee as Thou art 
to be found in the law and in the prophets and in the 
psalms. I have likewise found refreshment in the 
evangelical pastures and in the writings of the apostles. 
Often, too, have I, like a beggar, borrowed what 



398 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

nourishment I could for myself and my children from 
the examples, the speeches, and the writings of Thy 
saints. But more frequently — this kind of food being 
more within reach — I have eaten the bread of affliction 
and drunk the wine of compunction ; and ' my tears have 
been my bread day and night, whilst it is said to me 
daily : where is thy God ? ' Yet sometimes from Thy 
table — for ' Thou hast prepared a table before me, 
against them that afflict me ' — sometimes, I say, from 
Thy table, as a gift of Thy compassion, I receive the 
meat that restores my vigour, when my soul is sad 
and troubling me. These pastures are known to me, 
and thither I have often followed Thee as my Shepherd. 
But show me, I beseech Thee, those I have not yet 
enjoyed. 

" There are indeed other Shepherds besides Thee, 
who say they are Thy companions, but are not. These 
have their own flocks and their own pastures, filled 
with the food of death, wherein they feed their sheep 
not with Thee nor under Thy direction. But their 
bounds I have not entered, nor even so much as ap- 
proached. They are those who say ' Lo, here is Christ ; 
lo, He is there,' promising more abundant fields of 
wisdom and knowledge. And they impose on the 
people and draw to them multitudes whom they make 
1 children of hell twofold more than themselves.' 
Wherefore this ? It is because we have here neither the 
meridian nor the clear light of day, wherein the truth 
might be readily recognised, for which now falsity, 
because of its resemblance to it, is easily mistaken ; 
for it is difficult to distinguish them in the twilight, 
especially since ' stolen waters are sweeter and hidden 
bread more pleasant.' And, therefore, I entreat Thee to 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 399 

' show me where Thou feedest, where Thou liest in the 
mid-day/ that is, in the broad daylight, lest I be se- 
duced and ' begin to wander after the flocks of Thy 
companions,' who are themselves but strays and wan- 
derers, having no certain truth to direct them, ' ever 
learning and never attaining to a knowledge of the 
truth.' " So far the Spouse, speaking of the doctrines, 
as various as vain, of heretics and philosophers. 

It seems to me, however, that not alone on account 
of such human seducers, but also because of the wiles 
of the invisible powers, the lying spirits who sit in 
ambush with their " arrows prepared in the quiver, 
to shoot in the dark the upright of heart " — it seems 
to me, I say, that because of these especially, we also 
ought to desire the mid-day, in order to detect by the 
clear light the cunning snares of the demon, and to 
distinguish easily from our good angel that angel of 
Satan who transforms himself into an angel of light. 
For it is only in the light of noon-day that we can 
defend ourselves from "the invasion and from the 
noon-day devil." And the reason why that demon 
is called the noon-day devil is, I believe, this. There 
are some amongst the malignant spirits, who although 
by reason of their darkened and obstinate will, they may 
justly be named night and night everlasting, yet know 
how to simulate the day, and even the noon-day, in 
order to deceive us. So their leader, not content with 
making himself the equal of God, goes so far as to 
" oppose and to be lifted up against all that is called 
God, or that is worshipped." Whenever, therefore, 
such a noon-day devil takes hold of anyone to tempt 
him, it is quite impossible that he should be thwarted 
and fail of his object, but he will most certainly seduce 



400 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

and supplant his victim by the false appearance of virtue, 
moving the incautious and unguarded soul to take evil 
for good, unless the true Noon-day, the Orient from on 
high, shall enlighten her, and unmask and expose the 
deceiver. And it is when he comes to us with the sug- 
gestion of a greater good, as it were, that the tempter 
appears as the noon-day, that is, in more than his usual 
brightness. 

How often, for example, has he* not urged one or 
other of you, my brethren, to anticipate the hour of 
rising, so that afterwards he might have the satisfac- 
tion of seeing him nodding whilst all the rest were em- 
ployed in praising God ! How often has he not induced 
another to prolong his fast until loss of strength ren- 
dered him useless for the divine service ! How many, 
through envy of the rapid progress they were making 
in community life, has he not persuaded, under the 
pretext of higher perfection, to seek the desert ! And 
at length, when it was all too late, his poor dupes came 
to realise the truth of the oracle, " Woe to him that is 
alone, for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up ! " 
How many also has he not tempted to apply themselves 
with excessive zeal to manual labour, with the view 
that they might injure their health and so require to 
be dispensed from all the regular exercises ! What 
numbers has he not led to undertake " bodily exercise," 
which, [according to the Apostle, is "profitable to 
little, " not in a little but in too great a degree, and 
so defrauded them of the merit of piety ! Finally, you 
yourselves, my brethren, know by experience how 
some — and I speak it to their shame — who once 
could not be restrained within the limits of modera- 
tion, being carried on in everything by the spirit of 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 401 

intemperate zeal, have afterwards relapsed into such a 
depth of sloth that we may apply to them the words 
of St. Paul : they began in the spirit and are now 
ending in the flesh. For they seem now to have made a 
most dishonourable peace with those bodies against 
which they had previously declared merciless war. 
You may see such religious — shame on them, I say ! — 
who before used to refuse even necessaries with the 
utmost obstinacy, now begging importunately for super- 
fluities. And even though there be some who still 
continue inflexibly stubborn, by their indiscreet ab- 
stinence and notable singularity still disturbing the 
consciences of their brethren with whom they should 
" dwell together in unity," I know not whether they 
suppose themselves to have preserved their piety, but 
to me they seem to have renounced it even more 
completely than those others above-mentioned. For 
religious persons who, being wise in their own con- 
ceit, have determined with themselves to be guided 
neither by the commands nor the counsels of their 
superiors, ought to consider what answer they shall 
make, not to me, but to Him Who says, " It is like 
the sin of witchcraft to rebel ; and like the crime of 
idolatry to refuse to obey." And He declared just 
before that " Obedience is better than sacrifices, and to 
hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams " — where 
the fat of rams may be taken to signify the abstinence 
of the obstinate. Hence the Lord asks by the mouth 
of His Prophet, " Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks ? 
or shall I drink the blood of goats ? " By which He 
means to tell us that He will 1 eject utterly the fastings 
of the proud and the sensual. 

But I now feel apprehensive lest, whilst condemning 
1. 2 c 



402 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the superstitiously austere, I should seem to encourage 
the lax, and that the latter should hear to their hurt 
what has been offered as a remedy to the former. 
Wherefore, let both the one class and the other re- 
member that there are four kinds of temptation. They 
are thus described for us in the words of the Psalmist, 
" His truth shall compass thee with a shield ; thou shalt 
not be afraid of the terror of the night ; of the arrow 
that flieth in the day ; of the business that walketh 
about in the dark ; of invasion, or of the noon-day 
devil." Let all, even you who are neither over-lax 
nor over- austere, be now attentive to what I think 
will be profitable to all. Every one of us, my brethren, 
after his conversion to the Lord, has experienced and 
does still experience in himself that which Holy Scrip- 
ture says, " Son, when thou comest to the service of 
God, stand in justice and fear, and prepare thy soul 
for temptation." Consequently, according to the rule 
of ordinary providence, during the first stage of our 
conversion we were agitated with fear, which is excited 
in the minds of beginners by the terrifying prospect 
of a stricter life, and the austerity of regular discipline. 
Now, this fear is called the "terror of the night," 
either because the word " night " is used in Holy Scrip- 
ture to designate adversity ; or because we are kept 
still in the dark about the reward for the sake of which 
we go forward to suffer what is painful. For if that 
day had fully brightened, in the light of which we 
could behold with equal clearness both our labours and 
the immortal crowns which shall compensate them, no 
toils, however great, would inspire us with alarm, on 
account of the eagerness with which we should long 
for the fruits of them, thus distinctly perceived. This 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 403 

is clear from the words of the Apostle, " The sufferings 
of this time are not worthy to be compared with the 
glory to come, that shall be revealed in us." But 
now, because they — the rewards — are hidden from our 
eyes, there is night meantime and in so far. For we are 
tempted by the "terror of the night," being afraid 
to endure our present labours for the crowns which 
we do not see. Beginners, therefore, have to watch 
and pray against this first temptation particularly, 
lest, suddenly overtaken by " pusillanimity of spirit 
and the storm," they should — which God forbid ! — 
abandon their holy enterprise. 

Having overcome this temptation to despair, we have 
next to arm ourselves against human praise, which is 
evoked especially by holiness of life. Otherwise we 
shall run the risk of being wounded by the " arrow 
that flieth in the day," that is to say, by vainglory. 
For, in a sense, good fame may truly be said to fly. 
And it flies in the day, because it springs from the 
works of light. But if this temptation also is blown 
aside like an idle vapour, it remains for the seducer 
to offer us something more substantial, namely, the 
riches and honours of the world, in the hope that 
he who refuses praise may still be willing to accept 
wealth and dignity. Consider here, my brethren, if 
this be not the order in which the temptations were 
presented to Our Lord in the desert. After the sugges- 
tion to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, 
which was intended to excite vainglory, He was shown 
and offered all the kingdoms of the world. Do you, then, 
imitate your Master in resisting this third temptation 
also. If not, you must inevitably be overcome by the 
' business that walketh about in the dark," which is 



404 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

hypocrisy. For this vice is born of ambition and makes 
its abode in obscurity, since it dissembles what it is 
and simulates what it is not. Busily intriguing at all 
times, it retains the appearance of piety as a disguise, 
laying claim to* the merit of virtue and buying the 
honours thereof. 

The last temptation is from the " noon-day devil," 
who is wont to lie in wait particularly for the perfect. 
These, as being men of virtue, have escaped all other 
dangers, viz., from pleasures, applause, and honours. 
The tempter has now no other weapon wherewith to 
attack them openly. He comes therefore masked, since 
he no longer dares to show himself in his real char- 
acter. And those whom he knows from experience 
will turn away in horror from manifest evil, he en- 
deavours to seduce by a deceptive appearance of good. 
Even such as can say with the Apostle, " We are not 
ignorant of his devices," have to be anxiously on their 
guard against this snare, and that the more, the further 
advanced they are in virtue. Hence it is that Mary 
was troubled at the angelic salutation, suspecting, as 
I think, some hidden deceit. Josue also refused to 
receive the friendly angel until he had satisfied him- 
self that he was really a friend. For he inquired whether 
he was on his own side or was in league with his ad- 
versaries, as one who had experience of the cunning 
tricks of this " noon-day devil." On a certain occasion, 
again, when the apostles were labouring at the oars, 
the wind being contrary and blowing the ship about, 
they saw the Lord walking on the sea ; and supposing 

* " Virtutem ejus vindicans." Many editions have " ven- 
ditans," which seems to make no good sense. The reading 
adopted here is Mabillon's. — (Translator.) 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 405 

Him to be a spirit, they cried out for fear. Is it not 
plain that they then showed their dread and suspicion 
of the noon-day devil ? And you remember the words 
of Holy Scripture that " in the fourth watch of the 
night He came to them, walking upon the sea." It 
is therefore in the fourth watch, that is to say, in the 
final stage of our progress towards perfection, that we 
have to look out for this temptation. And we are given 
to understand that the higher a soul finds herself to 
be exalted, the more careful should she be in watch- 
ing against the "invasion and the noon-day devil." 
Furthermore, when the true Meridian manifested Him- 
self to the disciples with the words, " It is I, fear not," 
immediately they were enabled to put aside their 
suspicion of the counterfeit. Would to God that to 
us also, whenever specious falsity attempts to impose 
on us, the true Meridian, " the Orient from on high," 
would " send forth His light and His truth " to expose 
the fraud and again, as in the beginning, to divide the 
light from the darkness, so that we may no longer 
deserve to be reproached by the Prophet as " putting 
darkness for light and light for darkness " ! 

I will next attempt to point out how these four 
temptations have attacked in their order even the 
mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, that is, 
unless so long a sermon would weary you. Well, I 
will make the exposition as brief as I can. Consider, 
then, the primitive Church, and see if it was not per- 
vaded and most fiercely assailed by the " terror of the 
night." For then surely it was night, when everyone 
who slew the saints thought he was doing a service to 
God. But when this temptation had been overcome 
and the tempest had passed over, the Church appeared 



406 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

in glory, and, according to the promise made to it, 
soon occupied the place of pre-eminence in the world. 
Then the enemy, enraged by his previous disappoint- 
ment, cunningly exchanged the " terror of the night " 
for the " arrow that flieth in the day," and with it, 
as St. Paul speaks, wounded "some of the Church." 
For there arose vain men, who hungered after earthly 
glory and sought to make a name for themselves. 
Going forth from the Christian body, they began to 
afflict their holy mother by teaching diverse and per- 
verse doctrines. But this second plague found a remedy 
in the wisdom of the doctors, as did the first in the 
patience of the martyrs. 

The present generation, my brethren, is, through the 
mercy of God, free from both these dangers. But it is 
manifestly corrupted by the " business that walketh 
about in the dark." Woe to this generation by reason 
of the leaven of the Pharisees ! I mean, because of its 
hypocrisy, if indeed that ought to be called hypocrisy 
which is now too prevalent to lie concealed and too im- 
pudent to seek concealment. To-day the foul disease 
has spread itself throughout the whole body of Christ's 
mystical Bride, the more incurable in proportion as it 
is widely extended, and the more deadly the more deeply 
it penetrates. Were one to rise up against holy mother 
Church, teaching open heresy, he would be cut off like 
an infected member, and cast forth to rot. Were a 
persecuting enemy to appear against her, she might per- 
haps hide herself from his violence. But now whom 
shall she cast forth, and from whom shall she hide 
herself ? All are her friends and nevertheless all are 
her enemies. All are her children and, at the same time, 
all are her adversaries. All arc her domestics, yet none 



ON THE THREE OBJECTS 407 

give her peace. All are her neighbours, whilst all seek 
the things that are their own. They are Christ's min- 
isters, but they serve Antichrist. Honoured with the 
goods of the Lord, they refuse to render due honour 
to the Lord. Hence that worldly ornamentation which 
daily meets our eyes, that showy style of dress, more 
befitting a stage-player than a Christian cleric, that 
splendour of appointment which even kings might envy. 
Hence the gold mountings on bridles, saddles, and 
spurs ; for such trappings are more carefully embellished 
than the altars of God. Hence the splendid tables, fur- 
nished with costly plate and delicate viands. Hence 
the " drunkenness and revellings." Hence the music 
of the harp and the lyre and the flute. Hence the 
brimming winepresses, and the " storehouses full, 
flowing out of this into that." Hence the phials of 
sweet perfumes. Hence the well-filled coffers. It is 
for the sake of such things that they desire to be, and 
do actually become provosts of churches, deans, arch- 
deacons, bishops, archbishops. For these dignities are 
not now bestowed upon merit, but are given to that 
" business that walketh about in the dark," namely, 
to ambition. 

It was said of old, and now we see the fulfilment of 
the prediction, " Behold in peace is my bitterness most 
bitter." Bitter was the bitterness of holy mother 
Church in the early ages whilst the martyrs were being 
slaughtered ; it was more bitter during her struggle 
with heresy ; but it is now become most bitter owing 
to the corrupt morals of her own children. These she 
can neither drive away nor flee from, so powerfu! have 
they grown, and " they are multiplied beyond number." 
She is now attacked by an internal and incurable dis- 



408 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

temper, and therefore " in peace is her bitterness most 
bitter." But in what peace ? There is peace and there 
is no peace. There is peace from infidels and peace from 
heretics, but she has no peace from her children. " I 
have brought up children and exalted them, but they 
have despised me." Such is her plaintive cry in our 
day. "They have heaped contempt and dishonour 
on me by their shameful lives, by their shameful love 
of lucre, by their shameful traffic, by their devotion 
to the ' business that walketh about in the dark.' " 
It only remains now for the " noon-day devil " to make 
his appearance in order to seduce, if he can, the remnant 
who still abide in Christ, persevering in their sim- 
plicity. For he has already swallowed up the " rivers " 
of the wise and the " torrents " of the powerful, " and he 
trusteth that the Jordan-that is to say, the simple 
and humble children of the Church— may run into his 
mouth." This is Antichrist * who simulates the day, 
yea, and the Meridian, " and is lifted up above all that 
is called God, or that is worshipped." Him may the 
Lord Jesus slay " with the Spirit of His Mouth and with 
the brightness of His coming," as the true and never- 
fading Meridian, the Bridegroom and Advocate of the 
Church, Who is over all things, God blessed for ever. 
Amen. 

* It may be of interest to observe that in St. Bernard's own 
day the coming of Antichrist was believed to be at hand. St 
ISoibert, Founder of the Premonstratensians, claimed to have* 
A^w d // 1 eveIation to that effect. He was visited by the 
Abbot of Clairvaux, who has left us an account of the inter- 
view in his 5 6th Epistle : "He declared that he knew for certain 
? + w ^ l St WaS t0 be reve ^ed in the present generation 
and that he himself would live to see a general persecution. 
Still I was not convinced. "—(Translator.) 



SERMON XXXIV 
On Humility and Patience. 

" If thou know not thyself, O fairest among women, go forth and 
follow after the steps of the flocks, and feed thy kids beside the 
tents of the shepherds." 

" If thou know not thyself, O fairest among women, 
go forth and follow after the steps of the flocks and 
feed thy kids beside the tents of the shepherds." In 
times long past, my brethren, holy Moses, who could 
presume much on the familiarity and the friendship to 
which the Lord had admitted him, made bold to aspire 
to a certain extraordinary privilege, so that he said 
to God, "If I have found favour in Thy sight, show 
me Thy Face." But instead of the vision for which 
he prayed, he was given another far inferior, yet one 
whereby he might sometime attain to that he desired. 
The sons of Zebedee also, walking in the simplicity 
of their hearts, ventured to ask a great favour. But 
they likewise had to be satisfied with a lower grace, 
from which the ascent to the higher should be made. 
So here the Spouse, as seeming to make a presumptuous 
request, is reproved with an answer, sharp indeed, yet 
helpful and true. For it is necessary that he who 
aspires to things sublime should entertain lowly senti- 
ments of himself. Otherwise, whilst attempting to 
rise above himself he would run the risk of falling 

below himself, unless he is solidly grounded in himself 

409 



410 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

by means of true humility. And as without humility 
there is no possibility of obtaining extraordinary 
favours of God, he who is to be enriched with special 
graces, has first to be humbled by correction, in order 
that by humility he may merit his advancement. 
Therefore, my brethren, whenever you see yourselves 
humbled, consider this a certain sign of the approach 
of grace.* For just as " the spirit is lifted up before a 
fall," so is the soul humbled before being exalted. 
Both these laws of the spiritual life are found in Holy 
Scripture, where we read that " God resisteth the 
proud and giveth His grace to the humble." Finally, 
we have the case of holy Job. After his magnificent 
triumph, when his heroic and splendidly proved pati- 
ence was considered by God to be deserving of a great 
reward, did He not first cause him to be humbled by 
many severe trials and so prepared for the coming 
prosperity ? 

But it is not enough to receive willingly the humi- 
liations which come to us directly from God, if we do 
not accept in the same dispositions those which He 
sends us through the agency of others. Wherefore, 
listen to a glorious example of such patience from the 
history of the Prophet David. On one occasion he was 
reviled with curses, and that by a servant. But the 
insults heaped upon him awakened in his breast no 
feelings of resentment, because the influence of grace 
was there dominant. " What have I," said he, "to do 
with you, ye sons of Sarvia." O truly " a man according 
to God's own Heart," who felt called upon to show 
indignation rather against the avenger than against 

* " Temptation going before is usually a sign of ensuing 
consolation " (Imitation, Bk. II. ch. ix.). — (Translator.) 



ON HUMILITY AND PATIENCE 411 

the author of his wrongs ! Hence he could say with 
a safe conscience, " If >I have rendered to them that 
repaid me evils, let me deservedly fall empty before 
my enemies." He therefore would not allow his fol- 
lowers to prevent the malevolent one from cursing 
him, esteeming this cursing as so much gain. " The 
Lord," he added, " hath bid him curse David." Surely 
he must have been " according to God's own Heart," 
seeing that he could thus discover the judgments of 
the Heart of God. Whilst the tongue of the maligner 
was pouring out its venom upon him, he kept his 
attention fixed on God's secret designs. And his soul 
was bending down to receive a divine benediction, at 
the very time when that Semei's cursing voice was 
sounding in his ears. Was the Lord, therefore, in the 
blasphemer's mouth ? God forbid ! But He made use 
of the blasphemer to humble David. Nor was this 
unknown to the Prophet to whom God had manifested 
" the uncertain and hidden things of His wisdom." 
Therefore he declared "It is good for me that Thou 
hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy justifications." 
Observe, my brethren, how humility justifies us. 
Humility, I say, not humiliation. How many there 
are who suffer humiliation without being humble ! 
Some endure humiliation with bitterness, others with 
patience, others again with gladness. The first class are 
culpable, the second are innocent, the last are just. 
Although innocence may be considered a part of justice, 
still the perfection of justice belongs to humility. Now, 
he is truly humble who can say from his heart, " It is 
good for me that Thou hast humbled me." But he 
who submits to humiliation against his will cannot 
sincerely say this. Much less, he who murmurs against 



412 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

it. To neither of these do I promise grace simply 
because he is humbled. Yet there is a vast difference 
between the two, since the one possesses his soul in 
patience, whereas the other perishes in his discontent. 
But, although the latter merits indignation, neither 
merits grace. For it is not to the humbled but to the 
humble that God gives His grace. The humble man is 
he who converts humiliation into humility, and it is 
only such can say to God, " It is good for me that Thou 
hast humbled me." 

No one, manifestly, esteems that a good to him, but 
rather an evil, which he endures only with patience. 
And we know that " God loveth a cheerful giver." 
Hence, when we fast we are bidden to anoint our heads 
with oil and to wash our face, in order that our good 
work may be seasoned, so to speak, with spiritual 
joy, and that our " holocaust may be made fat." For 
it is only a joyous and perfect humility that merits 
the grace of which humiliation is the herald. But the 
humility which is due to necessity or compulsion, 
such as that of the man who possesses his soul in pati- 
ence, such humility, I say, although it obtains life on 
account of its patience, yet, as accompanied by sadness, 
gives no title to the grace of the promise. And the 
reason is, because the words of Scripture, " Let the 
brother of low condition glory in his exaltation," do not 
apply to a humility of that description, which is neither 
spontaneous nor joyful. 

Do you wish, my brethren, to behold a mam glorying 
in the right way, and rightly deserving of glory? 
" Gladly," says the great Apostle, " will I glory in 
my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell 
in me." He does not say he will bear his infirmities 



ON HUMILITY AND PATIENCE 413 

with patience, but that he will " glory " and " gladly 
glory " in them. Thus he proves that it is good for 
him that he has been humbled, and indicates that it is 
by no means sufficient to possess his soul by enduring 
humiliations patiently, unless he also obtains the grace 
promised to those who rejoice in their humiliations. 
Hence we may regard as a general rule these words of 
Christ, " He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." 
From them we learn that not every kind of humility is to 
be exalted, but that alone which is cheerfully embraced 
by the will, not with sadness, nor by constraint ; just as, 
on the other hand, not every one that is exalted shall 
be humbled, but only he who exalts himself, he shall 
he humbled, in punishment, evidently, of his vain and 
voluntary ambition. In this way, then, not he who is 
humbled, but he who humbles himself, has the promise 
of exaltation, as the reward of his good will. But 
although the objective element, or the matter of humility, 
comes from outside, for instance, insults, injuries, or 
chastisement, not on that account would it be true 
to say that the man who determines for God's sake 
to bear these trials is humbled by any other than by 
himself. 

But whither am I drifting ? However, I think you 
will easily excuse this long digression on humility and 
patience. I shall now return to the subject whence 
I wandered. My remarks on patience and humility 
were suggested by the Bridegroom's reply, wherewith 
He thought proper to rebuke the presumption of His 
Spouse, in asking things too far above her. This He did, 
not with the intention of confounding her, but in order 
to give her an occasion for greater and better tried 
humility, whereby she would become more deserving 



4 i4 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

of the higher gifts and more qualified to receive the 
graces she solicited. But as I am still only at the 
beginning of this verse, I shall leave the exposition of 
it, if you allow me, for another sermon, lest the 
words of the heavenly Bridegroom should be either 
discussed without interest or heard without relish. 
From which evil may He protect His servants, Our 
Lord Jesus Christ, Who is over all things, God blessed 
for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXXV 

On the two Kinds of Ignorance which we ought 
to fear and to avoid. 

" If thou know not thyself, O fairest of women, go forth and follow 
after the steps of the flocks, and feed thy kids beside the tents 
of the shepherds." 

" If thou know not thyself, go forth." The Bride- 
groom, my brethren, is here administering a sharp 
and severe reprimand, inasmuch as He uses the ex- 
pression " go forth.'' Such a command servants are 
wont to hear from their masters when under the 
influence of excessive anger and indignation, and hand- 
maidens from their mistresses whose deep displeasure 
they have incurred. " Get thee hence," cries the 
wrathful lord or lady, " depart from my presence, 
get out of my sight, leave my house." This, then, is 
the language, harsh and bitter enough, and conveying 
a stern reproof, in which the Bridegroom addresses 
His beloved. But He speaks conditionally, " if thou 
know not thyself." And certainly He could not employ 
a more powerful or more efficacious means- for inspiring 
her with terror than to threaten her thus with being 
sent forth. You will agree with me in this, my brethren, 
if you consider well whence she is bidden to go and 
whither. For what else is that change whereof she is 
here warned but the decline from the spirit to the 
flesh, from the goods of the soul to earthly desires, 
from interior peace and joy of heart to worldly tumult 

415 



416 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

and the distractions of temporal cares ? That is to say, 
the Spouse is bidden to go forth to things in which 
she shall find only labour and pain and affliction of 
spirit. For the soul that has once learned from the 
Lord and obtained the grace to enter into herself, and 
in her own interior to yearn for the presence of God 
and to "seek His Face at all times " — since " God is 
a Spirit," and they that seek Him ought to "walk in 
the spirit and not in the flesh, so as to live according to 
the flesh" — such a soul, I say, would scarcely consider 
the endurance, for a time, of the pains of hell a more 
terrible and unbearable chastisement, than, after tast- 
ing the sweetness of this interior and spiritual life, 
to have to return to the pleasures, or rather to the 
troubles of the flesh, and to become again the slave 
of the insatiable appetite of the senses, of which 
Ecclesiastes says, " The eye is not filled with seeing 
nor the ear with hearing." Attend to one who, 
learned by experience the truth of what I am saying. 
" The Lord," exclaimed the Prophet Jeremias, " is 
good to them that hope in Him, to the soul that 
seeketh Him." Should anyone endeavour to deprive 
the holy soul of this good which she enjoys in 
union with her God, I believe she would suffer quite 
as much as if she saw herself expelled from paradise 
and driven away from the very gates of glory. Listen 
to another Prophet speaking in the same sense. " My 
heart," sings the Psalmist, "hath said to Thee: my 
face hath sought Thee ; Thy Face, O Lord, will I still 
seek." Hence he also says, " It is good for me to adhere 
to my God." And again, addressing his soul, "Turn, 
my soul, unto thy rest, for the Lord hath been boun- 
tiful to thee." Hence, I say to you, there is nothing 



THE TWO KINDS OF IGNORANCE 417 

so dreaded by the soul that has once been raised to 
union with the heavenly Bridegroom as to be abandoned 
by grace and thus, in a manner, obliged to go forth 
again to the consolations, rather the desolations, of 
the flesh, and again to endure the distraction and 
turbulence of the bodily senses. 

Therefore, my brethren, truly awful and terrifying is 
the threat conveyed in the words, " Go forth and feed 
thy kids." As much as to say, " Know thyself to be 
undeserving of that sweet and familiar contemplation 
of things celestial, spiritual, and divine, which I have 
hitherto permitted thee. Wherefore, go forth from My 
sanctuary, which is thine own heart, where thou hast 
been accustomed to receive with rapture the hidden 
and holy impressions of wisdom and truth. And for 
the future, apply thyself to the task of satisfying and 
pleasing the senses of the flesh." For by " kids " — 
which are symbolic of sin and on the Last Day are to 
stand on the Judge's left — the Bridegroom means the 
wandering and wayward sensitive faculties, by which, 
as through windows, sin and death found entrance to 

I the soul. With this interpretation the words which 
follow in our text — " beside the tents of the shepherds " 
— can be perfectly harmonised. For kids have their 

! pasture not, like lambs, above, but beside the tents 
of the shepherds. That is to say, shepherds, who are 
truly such, although living in tabernacles on the earth 

I and of the earth, viz., their mortal bodies, wherein they 

\ carry on their spiritual warfare, are nevertheless wont to 
feed the flocks of Christ, not on earthly but on heavenly 
pastures, since they direct them not according to their 
own, but according to their Master's Will. But the kids, 
that is, the material senses, do not need such spiritual 

I. 3D 



418 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

nourishment. " Beside the tents of the shepherds," 
viz., amidst all the sensible goods of this world — in the 
world of bodies — they find wherewith — I will not say 
to appease but to provoke their desires. 

What an ignominious change of occupation, my 
brethren ! She whose only care heretofore was to 
nourish her soul, whilst a sojourner and an exile here 
on earth, with the heavenly food of holy meditations, 
to study the good pleasure of God and the mysterious 
dispositions of His sovereign Will, to penetrate the 
heavens by the fervour of her love, and to visit in fancy 
the abodes of the blessed, to salute the patriarchs and 
the prophets and the apostolic company, to admire the 
bands of triumphant martyrs, and to stand amazed 
before the magnificent choirs of the angels — she who 
was accustomed to be thus employed has now to re- 
nounce all this happiness and to engage herself to the 
dishonourable service of the earthly body. Hence- 
forth it shall be her business to obey the flesh, to gra- 
tify the stomach and the palate, to beg through the 
world — through this world, the " fashion " whereof 
" passeth away " — the means of appeasing to some 
extent an ever ravenous appetite for pleasure. Send 
forth, O my eyes, send forth torrents of tears over 
the fate of such a soul, which, having been brought 
up in scarlet, now riots in filth ! In the words of holy 
Job, " She hath fed the barren that beareth not, and 
to the widow she hath done no good." And observe 
that it is not simply said to her " go forth " ; but " go 
forth and follow after the steps of the flocks, and feed 
thy kids beside the tents of the shepherds." By these 
words the Bridegroom, as it seems to me, intends to 
warn us about a matter of gravest import. Do you 



THE TWO KINDS OF IGNORANCE 419 

wish to know what it is ? Alas ! my brethren. It is that 
a creature * noble by origin, but long since degraded to 
the level of the brute, and now going miserably from 
bad to worse, is not allowed even to keep her place 
amongst the flock, but is bidden to follow after. Now 
some one may ask, how can that be ? It is only what 
we read in the psalms, " And man when he was in 
honour did not understand ; he is compared to sense- 
less beasts and is become like to them." Behold how 
the noble creature is reduced to the level of the common 
brutes. And I suppose if these irrational animals were 
endowed with the faculty of speech, they would say, 
" Behold Adam is become as one of us." " Man, when 
he was in honour." Would you like to be told in what 
honour ? He dwelt in paradise. His days were passed 
in a place of pleasure. Neither suffering nor want had 
any access to him. Surrounded with odoriferous apple 
trees, reclining on banks of flowers, crowned with honour 
and glory, and set over all the works of his Creator, 
he enjoyed the bliss and the companionship of the holy 
angels and of all the powers of the host of heaven. 
Yet his grandest prerogative was the glory of the divine 
image impressed upon his soul. 

But this glory of God he " changed into the likeness 
of a calf that eateth grass." Therefore it was that 
the Bread of angels became Grass, and was laid in the 
manger, and placed before us, who were now nothing 
better than brute animals. For " the Word was made 
Flesh," and according to the Prophet, " All flesh is 
grass." Yet this Grass has by no means become 

* " Egregia creatura facta de grege." The holy Preacher is 
here referring to the etymology of the word " egregia/' which 
is a compound from e grege, and means " outside " or " dis- 
tinguished from the common herd." — (Translator.) 



420 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

withered, neither has Its flower fallen off, since the 
Spirit of the Lord rested upon It, as Isaias predicted. 
And the reason why all flesh was once destroyed was 
because the Spirit of life had withdrawn from it. For 
it is written, " My Spirit shall not remain in man for 
ever, because he is flesh." You must understand that 
it is the vices of human nature which are here called 
flesh, not human nature itself ; because the Spirit is 
expelled, not by what is natural in us, but by what is 
vicious and sinful. It is, therefore, on account of its 
corruption by sin that the Prophet says, " All flesh is 
grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the 
field. The grass is withered and the flower is fallen." 
But this does not apply to that Flower Which came 
forth from and rose up out of the root and the rod of 
Jesse, because on It rested the Spirit of the Lord. Nor 
does it apply to that Grass or Flesh Which the Word 
was made, since the Prophet goes on to say, " But the 
Word of the Lord endureth for ever." For if the Word 
is Grass, and the Word endureth for ever, the Grass 
also must endure for ever. How otherwise, unless It 
endures for ever, can It communicate eternal life ? And 
yet we read of It, "If any man eat of this Bread, he 
shall live for ever." What Bread is meant we have 
clearly explained for us in the words that follow, " And 
the Bread That I will give is My Flesh for the life of 
the world." How, then, can That which is the Prin- 
ciple of eternal life to others, be Itself otherwise than 
eternal ? 

But recall now with me, my brethren, the words 
addressed to the Father by His Son, where He speaks 
in the psalm. "Thou wilt not give Thy Holy One," 
He says, "to see corruption." Doubtless, He is here 
speaking of His Body, Which lay lifeless in the tomb. 






THE TWO KINDS OF IGNORANCE 421 

For This was also called holy by the Angel Gabriel, 
who announced the Incarnation to Mary in the words, 
" The Holy That shall be born of thee shall be called 
the Son of God." Surely, then, that holy Grass, Which 
sprung up in the pastures, verdant with a perennial 
freshness, of the Virgin's spotless womb, Which the 
angels contemplate with eager love and ever-new 
delight — surely, that Divine Grass can never see cor- 
ruption. If, indeed, Mary, in becoming a mother, had 
lost her virginal bloom, in that case the Grass also 
would lose Its greenness. Hence the Food of man 
converted Itself into the Food of beasts, when man 
became as a beast. Oh, what a sad and mournful 
change ! That man, the dweller in paradise, the lord 
of the earth, the citizen of heaven, the domestic of the 
Lord of Sabaoth, the brother of the blessed spirits, 
and the co-heir with the celestial powers — that such a 
one should find himself by a sudden transformation, 
lying down in a stable from weakness, needing grass, 
like the beast whose image he had assumed, and be- 
cause of his ungovernable ferocity bound to the manger, 
as it is written, " With bit and bridle bind fast their 
jaws, who come not nigh to Thee ! " Yet, even now, 
O ox, recognise thy Owner, and thou, O ass, thy 
Master's crib, that the prophets of the Lord may be 
found faithful, who foretold these wonders of God ! 
Know even in 'thy present bestial condition Him Whom 
as a man thou didst not know. Adore in the stable 
the God Whom in paradise thou didst flee from. Honour 
the manger of Him Whose divine authority thou hast 
despised. Eat Him now as Grass, Whom as Bread and 
the Bread of angels thou didst disdain. 

But, you will ask, my brethren, what could be the 
cause of such degeneration ? It is unquestionably the 



422 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

fact that " man, when he was in honour, did not under- 
stand." What is it that he did not understand ? The 
Prophet does not explain ; but let me attempt to do 
so. Being placed in honour, and elated in spirit at 
the greatness of his glory, he failed to understand that 
he was but the slime of the earth. And immediately 
he experienced in himself what, long ages afterwards, 
one of the heirs of his captivity prudently observed 
and faithfully proclaimed, when he said, " If any man 
think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, 
he deceiveth himself." Alas for our miserable first 
parent, that there was none to say to him, " O earth 
and ashes, why art thou proud ? " Hence it was that 
the noble rational creature became associated with the 
dumb beasts ; hence the divine image was exchanged 
for the brutish ; hence the society of holy angels gave 
place to that of irrational animals. Do you perceive 
now, my brethren, how much to be avoided is this 
kind of ignorance, which has been the source of such 
innumerable evils to the whole human race ? For the 
Prophet declares that the reason why man is com- 
pared to the mindless brute is that he " did not under- 
stand." Consequently, we must guard against this 
ignorance by every means in our power, lest, haply, if 
still found without understanding, even after our chas- 
tisement, we should have to endure evils much more 
numerous and terrible than the former ; and lest it 
be said of us, " We would have cured Babylon, but 
she is not healed." And very justly so, since not even 
correction brought " understanding to our hearing." 

And consider, my brethren, if this be not the reason 
why the Bridegroom, when warning His beloved in 
so terrifying a manner against ignorance, did not say 
to her " go forth with the flocks," or "go forth to the 



THE TWO KINDS OF IGNORANCE 423 

flocks," but " go forth and follow after the steps of 
the flocks." For why should He speak thus, unless 
to point out that we ought to be more afraid and 
ashamed of the second ignorance, i.e., the ignorance 
after correction, than of the first, since, if the first 
placed man on a level with the brutes, the second 
places him after, that is, beneath them. Beneath the 
- brutes I say, because men, ignored and reprobated by 
God on account of their ignorance of Him, shall stand 
before His dreadful tribunal and be consigned to ever- 
lasting flames, but not so the brutes. No doubt, the 
condition of those human beings who shall receive such 
a judgment will be worse than the state of absolute 
nothingness. " It were better for him," said Christ, 
speaking of one destined for this doom, " if that man 
had not been born." He did not mean to say "if he 
had not been born at all," but " if he had not been 
born a man," * but a beast, for instance, or some other 
kind of irrational creature, which, as not possessing 
the faculty of judgment, would never have been called 
to judgment, nor, consequently, have been liable to 
eternal punishment. Therefore, let the reasoning 
animal, who blushes for his former ignorance, know 
that although he has the brute beasts as his partners 
in the enjoyment of the good things of this earth, he 
shall not likewise have their company in the endurance 
of the torments of hell — the penalty of the second ignor- 
ance ; that in the end he shall be expelled with ignominy 
from the society of the flocks and herds of his fellow- 
beasts ; and that he shall no longer be allowed to go 

* "Melius ei fuerat si natus non fuisset homo ille." St. 
Bernard appears to regard the word " homo " in this text as a 
predicate, so that the meaning would be, " It were better for 
him if he had never been born a man." — (Translator.) 



424 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

forth even with them, but only after them. For whereas 
death extinguishes in them all capacity for pain, he 
shall find himself a prey to every kind of evil, from 
which he is never to obtain deliverance. And all this 
because of his having added the second ignorance to 
the first. Therefore, man goes forth, and goes forth 
solitary, to "follow after the steps of the flock," when 
he is precipitated into the hell of the damned. Does 
not he, think you, occupy a place lower than the brutes, 
who, with his hands and feet bound, is " cast into the 
exterior darkness " ? And truly " the last state of that 
man is made worse than the first," since from an 
equality with the beasts he is reduced to inferiority. 

Even in the present life, if you consider the matter 
carefully, you will perceive, as I think, that man follows 
after the brute. For does it not seem to you that one 
who, whilst gifted with reason, does not live according 
to reason, is in some sense more beastly than the beasts 
themselves ? The beasts indeed do not govern them- 
selves by reason. But they have an excuse in the 
poverty of their nature, to which that faculty has been 
altogether denied. For man there is no such excuse, 
of whose nature the power of intelligence is a special 
prerogative. Justly, then, is man considered to go forth 
and to take rank after the flocks and herds, inasmuch 
as he is the only animal that by a degenerate life 
transgresses the laws of his nature, and, though gifted 
with reason, in his habits and affections imitates the 
unreasoning brutes. Thus I have shown you that he 
follows " after the footsteps of the flocks," in this life 
by the corruption of his nature, and shall do so in the 
life to come by the extremity of his chastisement. 

Behold, my brethren, thus shall the man be cursed 
who shall be found without knowledge of God. But is 






THE TWO KINDS OF IGNORANCE 425 

it " without knowledge of God " I should say, or rather 
" without knowledge of himself " ? Undoubtedly, I 
should say both. Both kinds of ignorance are criminal, 
and either, by itself, suffices for damnation. Do you wish 
to be assured of the truth of what I say ? Well, in the 
first place, you certainly cannot doubt that ignorance 
of God leads to eternal death, since, as you know, 
eternal life is nothing else than the knowledge of the 
" Father, the only true God," and of " Jesus Christ 
Whom He hath sent." Listen, therefore, to the words 
of the Bridegroom, wherein He clearly and unmis- 
takably condemns the Spouse's ignorance even of her- 
self. For what does Ke say ? Not " if thou know not 
God," but "if thou know not thyself, go forth and 
follow after the flocks." Thus it is evident that, as the 
Apostle declares, " If any man know not, he shall not 
be known," whether his ignorance be of God or of 
himself. These two species of ignorance shall furnish 
us with matter for a very useful discussion, if yet the 
Lord withholds not His assistance. However, I do not 
intend to open that subject now, lest through weari- 
ness and the omission of the customary prayers for 
light, either I should treat a most important question 
with insufficient diligence, or you should listen lan- 
guidly to what ought to be received with eager appetite. 
For, as the food of the body, when eaten without relish 
or hunger, rather injures than benefits, so, and much 
more so, with the food of the soul. If taken with dis- 
relish or disgust, instead of enlightening the mind, it will 
torment the conscience. From which may the Divine 
Spouse of the Church protect us, Jesus Christ Our 
Lord, Who is over all things, God blessed for ever. 
Amen. 



SERMON XXXVI 

On the Order to be observed in the Acquisition 

of Knowledge. 

" JJ thou know not thyself, go jorth." 

I have come to-day, my brethren, with the purpose 
of fulfilling my promise, of gratifying your desires, and 
of discharging a duty which I owe to God. Therefore, 
as you perceive, three motives move me to speak, 
fidelity to engagement, fraternal charity, and the fear 
of the Lord. If I am silent, my own mouth shall con- 
demn me. But what if I speak ? Of a truth, I fear the 
same judgment, that, whilst saying and not doing, I 
shall be again condemned by my own mouth. Do you, 
then, assist me by your prayers, that I may be able 
always both to say what is expedient and to practise 
what I preach. You are aware that the subject I have 
selected for the present discourse is ignorance, or rather 
the varieties of ignorance. For, as you remember, I 
spoke of two kinds, namely, ignorance of ourselves 
and ignorance of God, both of which I said were crim- 
inal and to be avoided. It remains for me now to 
explain this subject more clearly and to discuss it 
more exhaustively. But it appears to me that I ought 
first to inquire whether every kind of ignorance is 
blameworthy. I am not inclined to think that such 
is the case, since we shall not be condemned for not 
knowing everything, and there are many, yea, innumer- 
able things whereof ignorance is no obstacle to salvation. 

426 



THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE 427 

For instance, in what way would your spiritual interests 
suffer from lack of acquaintance with the mechanical 
arts, such as that of the carpenter, or the mason, or 
any other of those trades which men are wont to ply 
for temporal uses ? Even without any knowledge of 
those arts which are called liberal, and the study and 
exercise of which are considered more noble and pro- 
fitable, countless multitudes of men have saved their 
souls, pleasing God by their virtues and their works. 
How many, for example, does the Apostle enumerate 
in his Epistle to the Hebrews, who became dear to 
God, less by their knowledge of literature, than by 
the purity of their conscience and the sincerity of 
their faith ! All pleased the Lord whilst they lived 
here below, not by the profundity of their learning, 
but by the merit of their virtues. Neither St. Peter 
nor St. Andrew, noi the sons of Zebedee, nor any of 
their fellow-apostles, was chosen from the schools of 
philosophy or rhetoric. And yet, by means of them, the 
Saviour " wrought salvation in the midst of the earth." 
Not that they could say, like the holy man Ecclesiastes, 
that they surpassed all others in wisdom ; but " in their 
faith and in their meekness" the Lord saved them, 
and even sanctified them, even appointed them to be 
the instructors of others. For they made known to the 
world His " ways of life," and that " not in loftiness 
of speech," nor "in the learned words of human wis- 
dom," but as "it pleased God by the foolishness of 
their preaching to save them that believe," since " the 
world by wisdom knew not God." 

Perhaps you consider me unduly severe and narrow 
in my views on human knowledge, and suppose that 
I am censuring the learned and condemning the study 



428 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

of literature. God forbid that I should do so ! I am 
well aware how much her learned members have bene- 
fited and do still benefit the Church, whether by re- 
futing her opponents or by instructing the ignorant. 
And I have read what the Lord says by the mouth of 
His Prophet Osee, " Because thou hast rejected knowl- 
edge, I will reject thee, that thou shalt not do the 
office of priesthood to Me " ; and by His Prophet 
Daniel, " But they that are learned shall shine as the 
brightness of the firmament ; and they that instruct 
many to justice, as stars for all eternity." Neverthe- 
less, I remember also to have read that " knowledge 
puffeth up," and " He that addeth knowledge, addeth 
also labour." You perceive, my brethren, that there 
are distinctions in knowledge, since there is one kind 
that inflates with vainglory, and another which sobers 
us. \ Now, I wish to know which of these two varieties 
seems to you the more useful or the more necessary 
for salvation, that which purls us up with pride, or that 
which pains and humbles ? But I feel sure you prefer 
the sobering knowledge to the inflating. For whereas 
our spiritual health is destroyed by -he swelling of 
vanity, the desire of its recovery is excited by the bit- 
terness of humiliation. And he who desires salvation 
will ask for it and so draw nigh to it, " for every one 
that asketh receiveth." Finally, He " Who healeth the 
broken of heart," detests the man that is swollen with 
pride ; since, as we read in Wisdom, " God resist eth 
the proud and giveth His grace to the humble." And 
St. Paul thus exhorts the faithful, " I say, by the grace 
that is given me, to all that are among you, not to 
be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be 
wise unto sobriety." He does not forbid them to bu; 



THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE 429 

wise, but only to be " more wise than it behoveth." 
But what does he mean by the expression "to be wise 
unto sobriety " ? He means, no doubt, to admonish us 
that we must examine most carefully what objects of 
knowledge have the first and strongest claim to our 
study. For "the time is short." Now, all knowledge 
is good in itself, provided, however, that it be founded 
on truth. But we, my brethren, who are in a hurry 
to work out our salvation " with fear and trembling," in 
the limited time allowed us, we certainly should devote 
our first and best attention to the acquisition of that 
knowledge which appears to be most intimately con- 
nected with our spiritual welfare. Do not medical 
doctors assert that it is a part of their remedies to 
determine what their patients shall take first at meals, 
what next, and in what quantity they are to use each 
kind of meat ? For although it is manifest that all 
species of food are good in themselves, as having been 
created by God for our use, nevertheless we may easily 
render them bad for us, by failing to observe the due 
measure and order. Understand, then, of the varieties 
of knowledge what I have said of the varieties of food. 
But I had better send you to St. Paul himself, whom 
I acknowledge as my master. For the doctrine which I 
preach is not mine but his. Yet in another sense it is 
mine, because it is the doctrine of truth. " If any man," 
says the Apostle, " think that he knoweth anything, he 
hath not yet known as he ought to know." You observe, 
my brethren, that he does not commend the knowing 
of many things in one who is ignorant of the right 
manner of knowing, j You observe, I say, how he makes 
the fruit and utility of knowledge to consist mainly in 
the right manner of knowing. ^What, theief ore, does he 
mean by the right manner of knowing ? Evidently he 



430 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

wishes to teach us by these words in what order, with 
what ardour, and with what intention each kind of 
knowledge should be acquired. In what order, because 
we ought first to learn those truths which most imme- 
diately concern our salvation. With what ardour, 
because that knowledge should be most eagerly pur- 
sued which most powerfully conduces to charity. With 
what intention, because the motive of our studies must 
not be vainglory, curiosity, or anything such, but only 
our own spiritual advancement and the edification of our 
neighbour. There are some who desire to know simply 
for the sake of knowing, and this is shameful curiosity. 
And there are some who desire to know in order that 
they may become known themselves, and this is shame- 
ful vanity. To such persons, certainly, can be applied 
what the satirist says of the vainglorious man : — 

" You rate the worth of knowledge low 
Unless your neighbours know you know." * 

And some there are who desire to know in order to 
trade with their knowledge, bartering it for gold or for 
honours, and this is shameful traffic. But there are 
some also who desire to know in order to edify, and 
this is charity. And some, finally, who desire to know 
in order to be edified, and this is prudence. 

Of the above-mentioned classes, the last two alone 
are free from the guilt of abusing knowledge, for only 
these seek understanding as a means of well-doing. 
And we read in the psalms, "A good understanding 
to all that do it," i.e., to all who have the good will 
to guide themselves by its prescriptions. As for the 

* " Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter."-*- 
Persius. 



THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE 431 

others, let them attend to the words of St. James, 
" To him who knoweth to do good, and doth it not, 
to him it is sin." To express the same truth meta- 
phorically, to him who takes food and does not digest 
it, to him it is harmful. For food which is badly pre- 
pared or ill-digested generates noxious humours and 
thus injures instead of promoting bodily health. In 
just the same way, extensive knowledge stored up in 
the memory — which is, as it were, the stomach of the 
soul — unless it has been cooked over the fire of charity 
and so distributed and disposed amongst our spiritual 
members — which are our habits and our acts — so that the 
soul herself derives a goodness, as our lives and morals 
testify, from the goodness of the things she knows — 
unless this be the case, our knowledge shall be imputed 
to us as sin, and shall be likened to the undigested meat 
which gives rise to bad and unwholesome humours. Or 
does it not seem to you that sin is an unwholesome 
humour ? Are not loose morals unwholesome humours ? 
Does not such a one, viz., " he who knoweth to do 
good and doth it not," sutler in his conscience the 
torments and inflammations of spiritual indigestion ? 
And does he not hear within himself the doom of death 
and damnation as often as he calls to mind those 
words spoken by Christ, " The servant who knew the 
will of his Lord, and did not according to His will, 
shall be punished with many stripes." And see if 
perhaps it be not in the person of such souls that the 
Prophet Jeremias exclaims, " My bowels, my bowels 
are in pain." But possibly the repetition is intended 
to signify a twofold sense, so that besides the meaning 
just mentioned, there is need to look for another. This 
is what occurs to me. The Prophet may also have 



432 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

spoken thus in his own proper person, to indicate that, 
though full of knowledge and burning with the fire of 
charity, and longing to communicate these spiritual 
treasures to others, he yet was unable to find any will- 
ing to hear him ; and so what he could not distribute 
became, as it were, a burden to himself. Accordingly, 
the holy teacher of the Church weeps both for those 
who proudly refuse to learn how they should regulate 
their lives, and also for those who, possessing that 
knowledge, live nevertheless in disregard of the law. 
Thus much in explanation of the Prophet's repetition. 
\ Do you not perceive now, my brethren, with how 
much truth the Apostle says that " knowledge puffeth 
up " ? Consequently, I desire that my soul should 
learn in the first place to know herself, for this is re- 
v quired by reason both of utility and right order. By 
reason of good order, since the first object and truth 
for each is that which he is himself. And by reason 
of utility, because such knowledge does not inflate us 
with pride, but rather humbles us, and is thus an ex- 
cellent preparation for the spiritual edifice we intend 
to raise. | For this edifice cannot remain standing 
unless it be firmly grounded on the foundation of 
humility. Now, the soul can find nowhere a more 
fit and efficacious means for humiliating her than in 
a true knowledge of herself. Only let her not dis- 
simulate ; let there be no guile in her spirit ; let her 
place herself as she really is before her own eyes ; and 
let nothing be allowed to distract her attention from 
herself. Contemplating herself thus in the light of 
truth, she shall discover how far removed she is from 
the ideal of perfection. Then, groaning in her wretched- 
ness, for her real wretchedness can no longer remain 



THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE 433 

concealed from her, will she not cry out to the Lord, 
with the Prophet, " In Thy truth Thou hast humbled 
me " ? For how can she help being truly humbled in 
this true knowledge of herself, when she beholds herself 
laden with sins, oppressed with the weight of this cor- 
ruptible body, entangled in worldly cares, polluted with 
the filth of carnal desires, blind, earthward stooping, 
feeble, involved in many errors, exposed to a thousand 
dangers, agitated by a thousand fears, disquieted by a 
thousand suspicions, discouraged by a thousand diffi- 
culties, burdened with a thousand necessities, prone to 
vice, indisposed for virtue ? What motive for pride 
can such a one have ? How can such a one haughtily 
lift up her eyes or boldly hold her head erect ? Will 
she not rather, according to the words of the Psalmist, 
be " converted in her anguish, whilst the thorn is fast- 
ened ? " Yes, she will be converted to tears ; she will 
be converted to lamentations and groans ; she will 
be converted to the Lord. Then will she cry out 
in her humility, with the Prophet, " Heal my soul, 
for I have sinned against Thee." And being now con- 
verted, she will receive consolation from the Lord, 
because He is " the Father of mercies and the God of 
all consolation." 

As for me, my brethren, so long as I look upon 
myself, " my eye abideth in bitterness." But if I 
lift up my face and turn my gaze to the help of the 
divine compassion, the depressing vision of my own 
un worthiness is relieved by the joyous vision of God, 
and I say to Him, " My soul is troubled within myself, 
therefore, will I remember Thee." Nor is that an un- 
important vision of the Deity, which gives us the ex- 
perience of Him as loving and gracious ; because in 
1. 2 E 



434 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

truth, " He is gracious and merciful, patient and rich 
in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil," since good- 
ness is His very nature and it is peculiar to Him "to 
show mercy always and to spare." By this experience, 
therefore, and in this order, God gives us a saving 
knowledge of Himself. Man first recognises the help- 
lessness of his condition. He then cries to the Lord. 
The Lord hears and makes answer to him, " I will 
deliver thee and thou shalt honour Me." And thus 
the knowledge of oneself leads on to the knowledge of 
God. He is perceived by means of His own image, 
which is renewed in us, whilst we, confidently " be- 
holding the glory of the Lord with open face, are trans- 
formed into the same image from glory to glory, as by 
the Spirit of the Lord." 

But now, lastly, observe that both self-knowledge 
and the knowledge of God are alike essential for sal- 
vation, so that it is impossible to save one's soul in the 
absence of one or other. For if you do not know your- 
selves, you cannot have in you either the fear of God 
or true humility. Now, I leave it to yourselves, my 
brethren, to decide whether or not you can count upon 
your salvation without the fear of God and without 
humility. I am glad to learn from that murmur you 
have made that you have not the mind, or rather the 
madness, to take the affirmative view. Consequently, 
there is no need for me to labour a point already suffi- 
ciently clear. But let me call your attention to the 
other questions. Or, perhaps, I had better break off 
here for the sake of the drowsy. I expected to com- 
plete in one discourse my promised instructions con- 
cerning the two kinds of ignorance. And I should do 
so in fact, only that this sermon has already wearied 



THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE 435 

many of you and is judged to be tedious. For I can 
see some yawning, and some even fast asleep. How- 
ever, I am not surprised. The unusual length of last 
night's vigils accounts for their heaviness and excuses 
it. But this defence is not possible in the case of all. 
For what shall I say of those who have succumbed to 
sleep, both here and during the divine office ? But I will 
not shame them further. It is enough to have made 
them sensible of their fault. And I am sure they will 
be more vigilant in future, fearing the penalty of my 
animadversion. In that expectation I will spare them 
for this time. And although reason demands that 
this discourse should be completed without a break, 
out of charity for them I will now interrupt it, making 
an end where the end is not, and will resume the dis- 
cussion on another occasion. But let the offenders, in 
gratitude for the mercy they have obtained, glorify 
with us all the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus Christ, 
Our Lord, Who is over all things, God blessed for 
ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXXVII 

On the Knowledge and the Ignorance of God 

and of Self. 

" If thou know not thyself, go forth." 

I do not think, my brethren, that there is any 
necessity to warn you to-day against yielding to sleep, 
since, doubtless, the words of charitable reproof which 
I addressed to you so late as yesterday are still fresh 
in your memory, and have made you determined to 
keep wide awake. ( You recollect, then, that I ob- 
tained your assent to the proposition that no one is 
saved without self-knowledge. For it is, in fact, to 
this knowledge that we owe the virtue of humility — 
the mother of salvation — and also the fear of the 
Lord, which is the beginning of salvation quite as much 
as it is the beginning of wisdom. But when I say 
that there can be no salvation without self-knowledge, 
I mean, of course, for those who are of the age and 
have the capacity for acquiring it. This limitation is 
necessary on account of infants and idiots whose 
case is completely different. But what if one has no 
knowledge of God ? Can such ignorance consist with 
the hope of salvation ? Surely not. For we can neither 
love God without the knowledge of Him, nor possess 
Him without the love of Him. Therefore, let us know 
ourselves that we may fear God, and let us know God 
that we may also love Him. The first of these virtues 
introduces us to wisdom, the second brings us to its 

436 



I 



KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE OF GOD 437 

perfection, because "the fear of the Lord is the be- 
ginning of wisdom," and "love is the fulfilling of the 
law." Consequently, it is as necessary to avoid, / 
ignorance of God and ignorance of self as it is cer-' 
tain that without the fear and the love of God we 
cannot save our souls. As regards the knowledge of 
other objects, that is a matter of indifference ; we 
shall not be condemned for the want of it any more 
than its possession will save us.* 
* I am far from saying, however, that the knowledge 
of letters is to be despised or neglected. Such learning 
furnishes and adorns the mind, and enables us to 
instruct others. But it is expedient and necessary 
to acquire, first of all, that twofold knowledge of God 
and self, in which, as I have already shown, our sal- 
vation essentially consists.* And see if the Prophet 
had not this order of knowing in mind, and did 
not recommend it to us when he said, " Sow for your- 
selves unto justice, and reap the hope of life," after 
which he added, " and light for yourselves the lamp 
of knowledge."! He put the knowledge of letters in 
the last place, because, like a picture, it must rest upon 
something solid ; and for this reason he would have 

* The Saint, of course, is here speaking of learning absolutely 
and in itself. But what is indifferent, when so considered, may, 
and often does, become matter of obligation in the concrete, by 
reason of particular circumstances. Thus priests, lawyers, 
medical doctors, etc., are strictly bound to possess the learning 
necessary for the proper discharge of their respective duties. — 
(Translator.) 

f St. Bernard is here quoting not from the Vulgate but from 
the Septuagint, Q2HE I. 12. " Sneipare iavrols els hiKaiovvvqv, 
Tpvyrjaare els Kapnou ^co^y, (paTLcrare eavrols (pcos yvcocrtws. The 
Vulgate reading is altogether different, " Seminate vobis in 
justitia et metite in ore misericordiae, innovate vobis novale." — 
(Translator.) 



N^ 



438 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

it superimposed upon the knowledge of God and self as 
upon its proper basis and support . Securely may I apply 
myself to the acquisition of learning, if, through the 
grace of hope, I have first been rendered secure of the 
possession of life. Therefore, my brethren, you have 
sown " for yourselves unto justice,'* if by a true knowl- 
edge of yourselves you have been awakened to the fear 
of God, if you have humbled yourselves, poured out 
tears of contrition, given abundant alms, and devoted 
yourselves to all the other exercises of piety ; if you 
have afflicted your bodies with fastings and watchings ; 
if you have beaten your breasts with penitential blows 
and wearied heaven with your cries for mercy. This is 
what is meant by sowing " for yourselves unto justice." 
The seeds to be sown are good works, virtuous pur- 
suits, holy tears. " Going they went and wept," says 
the Psalmist , " casting their seeds." But then shall they 
always weep ? Certainly not. For, as the Prophet goes 
on to say, " coming they shall come with joyfulness, 
carrying their sheaves." Rightly does he represent 
them as coming " with joyfulness," since they carry the 
" sheaves " of immortal glory. But it may be objected 
that this joy is reserved for the Last Day, and that the 
wait is too long. Do not let such a thought discourage 
you ; do not lose heart through " pusillanimity of 
spirit." You have meantime of the first-fruits of the 
Holy Ghost that which you may now reap " with joy- 
fulness." " Sow for yourselves unto justice," urges 
the Prophet, "reap the hope of life." Mind, he does 
not tell us to wait until the Last Day, when we shall 
come into actual possession of what we now possess 
in hope. But he speaks of the present. The entrance 
into eternal life will assuredly fill us with immense 



KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE OF GOD 439 

happiness and a joy exceeding great. But is not the 
very hope of such a joy a joy in itself ? " Rejoicing in 
hope," says the Apostle. And notice how David does 
not tell us that he will rejoice, but that he has rejoiced, 
in the hope of entering into the house of the Lord. 
He was not yet in actual enjoyment of life everlasting, 
but the hope of it he had already reaped. And he 
experienced in himself the truth of the words of Holy 
Scripture, where it is written that not alone the reward 
itself, but the mere " expectation of the just is joy." 
This joy is engendered in the heart of him who sows 
for himself unto justice, by the assurance of his pardon ; 
provided, however, that such assurance is confirmed by 
the efficacy of the grace received in enabling him to 
live thereafter more holily. Everyone of you, my 
brethren, who is conscious of these operations in his 
interior, knows what the Spirit speaks, for His words 
and His works are ever in harmony. We therefore 
understand what is said, because what the ear hears 
exteriorly the heart feels within. For He Who speaks 
in us also works within us, " the same Spirit dividing 
to everyone according as He will," communicating to 
some the gift of speech, to others the grace of well- 
doing. 

Every one of you, therefore, who, after passing be- 
yond the first stage of his conversion, usually so painful 
and sorrowful, rejoices in the renewal of hope and in 
his elevation on the wings of grace to the more tranquil 
state of heavenly consolation — every such soul, I say, 
is in truth already reaping, enjoying the temporal fruit 
of her tears, She has both seen God and heard His 
voice saying to her, " Give her of the fruit of her hands." 
For how can it be doubted thai she has seen God, since 



440 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

she has even tasted and seen "that the Lord is sweet " ? 
Oh, how sweet and savoury dost thou taste to him, Lord 
Jesus, who has obtained from Thee not only the pardon 
of his sins, but even the grace of sanctity, and not 
that alone, but, to crown Thy favours, the promise of 
eternal life as well ! Happy he who has reaped so rich 
a harvest, having here his " fruit unto sanctification, 
and the end life everlasting " ! Justly has he, who wept 
on discovering himself, rejoiced, like the apostles, on 
beholding the Lord, at the sight of Whose tender com- 
passion he has already gathered such abundant sheaves, 
pardon, sanctification, and the hope of heaven. Oh, how 
true are those words which we read in the Psalmist, 
" They that sow in tears shall reap in joy " ! Herein 
we find included both the knowledge of self and the 
knowledge of God, the former sowing in tears, and the 
latter reaping in joy. 

Having first acquired this twofold knowledge of God 
and self, we are now in no danger of being " puffed up " 
by whatever learning we may add to it. For such 
learning can offer us nothing in the way of earthly 
honour or emolument, which is not so worthless in 
comparison with the hope we have conceived and the 
gladness of that hope, now deeply rooted in our soul, 
that it can no longer be a temptation to us. " And 
hope confoundeth not ; because the charity of God is 
poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost Who is 
given to us." Thus, the reason why hope " confoundeth 
not " is because charity infuses certitude. For it is 
by charity that " the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to 
our spirit that we are the sons of God." What advan- 
tage, therefore, can any learning of our own, however 
great, bring within our reach, which is not less than 



KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE OF GOD 441 

this glory wheieby we are numbered amongst the chil- 
dren of God ? But this is saying too little, since, in 
comparison with such and so great a dignity, the whole 
earth and the fulness thereof, although all that were 
offered to each one of us, would not be worthy of even 
a single thought. But if we are ignorant of God, how 
can we hope in One Whom we do not know ? If we are 
ignorant of ourselves, how can we have humility, since 
we shall think ourselves to be something, whereas we 
are nothing, as the Apostle speaks ? And we know that 
without humility and hope we can have neither lot 
nor fellowship in the inheritance of the saints. 

Let us consider now, my brethren, with what care 
and solicitude we ought to guard against both these 
kinds of ignorance, one of which is the source of all sin 
and the other the consummation thereof ; just as, on the 
other hand, the first of the two kinds of knowledge is 
the beginning, and the second the perfection, of wisdom. 
For self-knowledge begets the fear of the Lord, whilst 
from the knowledge of God we are led to the love of 
Him, as I have already sufficiently explained. It re- 
mains now to show how the twofold ignorance stands 
in the same relation to sin. As " the fear of the Lord 
is the beginning of wisdom," so " pride is the beginning 
of all sin w ; and just as the love of God is the con- 
summation of wisdom, in the same way is despair the 
consummation of sin. Agaia, just as the knowledge of 
self leads to the fear of the Lord, and the knowledge of 
God to the love of Him ; so, on the contrary, ignorance 
of self is the mother of pride, and ignorance of God 
gives birth to despair. Pride is the daughter of ignor- 
ance of self, inasmuch as our thought, deceived itself 
and deceiving us, makes us believe ourselves to be 



442 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

better than we really are. Now this is pride, this " the 
beginning of all sin," to appear greater in one's own 
eyes than one is in truth, or in the eyes of God. And 
therefore it is said of him who first committed this 
most dreadful sin, the devil, namely, that "he stood 
not in the truth, but is a liar from the beginning." * 
And the reason is because he was greater in his own 
\ thought than he was in truth. What then would be the 
consequence if one departed from truth, not by exag- 
gerating his merit, but by esteeming himself less than 
he really is ? Undoubtedly, his ignorance would excuse 
him, and he would not, at any rate, be reputed proud ; 
and instead of his " iniquity being found unto hatred," 
his humility would rather be found unto grace and 
pardon. Had we a clear knowledge of how we stood, 
each of us, in the judgment of God, it would be our 
duty to place ourselves neither above nor below that 
level, but in all things to be conformed to truth. But 
now, since this judgment " hath made darkness its 
hiding-place," and the divine appraisement is concealed 
from our view, so that " no man knoweth whether 
he be worthy of love or hatred," in this uncertainty it 
is manifestly better and safer to act according to the 
counsel of Divine Truth, and to choose for ourselves the 
last place, whence we may afterwards be promoted with 
honour, than to usurp too high a position which we 
shall soon be compelled to resign in confusion. 

We run no risk, consequently, however much we 
humble ourselves, no matter how much meaner we make 

* Quoted compendiously. St. John's words are, " He was a 
murderer from the beginning and he stood not in the truth ; 
because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh 
of his own, for he is a liar and the father thereof." — (Translator.) 






KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE OF GOD 443 

ourselves than we really are, that is to say, than we are 
in the estimation of Infinite Wisdom. But it would be 
an immense evil and a fearful danger to exalt oneself, be 
it ever so little, above one's proper place, for instance, to 
prefer myself in thought even to one, since, perchance, in 
the eyes of God, he may be my equal or superior. Let me 
give you an example to illustrate my meaning. When 
I am passing through a very low doorway, it will do me 
no harm to stoop as much as I please. But if I raise 
myself too high, even by so much as a finger's breadth, 
I at once meet with obstruction, and experience the 
painful sensation of knocking my head against the lintel. 
It is the same in spiritual things. The soul has nothing 
to fear from humility, no matter how low she bends. 
But should she rashly presume to lift herself above her 
merit, even in the slightest degree, dreadful and ex- 
ceedingly awful are the evils that threaten her. Where- 
fore, O man, beware of comparing thyself either with 
those who are greater than thee or with those who 
are less than thee, with many, or even with one. For 
how dost thou know whether he, who appears to thee 
the vilest and most miserable of all men, whof:e infamous 
and utterly abandoned life makes thee shudder with 
horror, whom thou regardest consequently as deserving 
of contempt, not only in comparison with thyself — who, 
in thine own judgment, art living soberly, justly, and 
piously — but even in comparison with all other crim- 
inals, as being the most criminal of all — how, I ask, 
dost thou know whether such a one may not become 
hereafter better than both they and thou by the 
" change of the right hand of the Most High," or 
whether he is not so even now in the sight of God ? 
Therefore, the Master recommends us to sit down, not in 



444 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

an intermediate place, nor in the place next the last, 
nor in one of the last, but in the very last of all. " Go," 
says He, " sit down in the lowest place," so that, placed 
last and alone, thou mayest not presume, I do not 
say to prefer, but even to compare thyself to anyone. 
Behold, my brethren, how great an evil results from 
lack of self-knowledge, pride, namely, which is the 
sin of the devil, and the beginning of all sin. As re- 
gards the ill-consequences to which the ignorance of 
God gives rise, I reserve that subject for another oc- 
casion. This adjournment is necessitated by the late- 
ness of the hour, for we were not assembled to-day as 
early as usual. And so let it suffice, meantime, that 
each of you has been admonished not to remain in 
ignorance of himself, not only by me, but also by the 
grace and inspiration of the Bridegroom of the Church, 
Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is over all things, God 
blessed for ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXXVIII 

On the Manner in which Ignorance of God leads 
to Despair, and on the Beauty of the Spouse. 

" If thou know not thyself, go forth." 

What is the evil that results from ignorance of God ? 
Here, my brethren, I have to resume the discussion 
which I interrupted yesterday, and which, if you re- 
member, I had conducted to this point. What, then, 
is this evil ? I have already told you. It is despair. 
But how does the lack of a knowledge of God lead to 
despair ? This I shall now endeavour to make clear. 
Imagine, then, a person entering into himself, recalling 
in the bitterness of his soul all the evils he has done, 
and purposing to amend, and to abandon all his wicked 
ways and his carnal conversation. Now, if such a one 
knows not how good the Lord is, that " He is sweet 
and mild and bounteous to forgive," will not his own 
natural reason become his accuser and say, " What art 
thou about ? Wouldst thou lose both this life and the 
life to come ? Thy sins are heinous in malice and 
countless in multitude. Thou shalt never be able to 
atone for crimes so great and so many, no, not even 
shouldst thou strip the very skin from thy body. Be- 
sides, thou art of a weak constitution, thou hast lived 
delicately, and it will be impossible for thee to conquer 
the force of habit." As he does not know how easily 
all these difficulties would dissolve and vanish before 
the power of that Omnipotent Goodness, Who desires 

445 



446 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

that none should perish, the poor sinner is driven to 
despair by such-like arguments, and miserably returns 
to his former evil courses. The result is final impeni- 
tence, which is the greatest of sins, as being, in truth, 
that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which shall be 
forgiven neither here nor hereafter. For either he is 
overwhelmed and swallowed up by an excess of sadness, 
which hurries him onward into the abyss, whence he 
shall never emerge to seek for consolation, as it is 
written : " The wicked man, when he is come into the 
depth, contemneth," that is to say, he makes no 
effort to deliver himself ; or else he deliberately blinds 
himself to the danger of his state, calms his conscience 
by some kind of specious reasoning, and plunges again 
and irrevocably into the pleasures and satisfactions of a 
worldly life, determined to enjoy to the utmost, and as 
long as he can, all the good things of this earth. But 
" when he shall say peace and security, then shall 
sudden destruction come upon him, as the pains upon 
her that is with child, and he shall not escape." In 
this way, then, from ignorance of God comes the con- 
summation of all malice, which is nothing else but 
despair. 

The Apostle tells us, my brethren, that " some have 
not the knowledge of God." But I will venture to say 
that none of those who refuse to be converted have the 
knowledge of God. For, unquestionably, the only reason 
of their unwillingness is that they imagine Him to be 
cold and austere Who is really kind and loving ; Him 
Who is full of mercy and sweetness they represent to 
themselves as hard and implacable, cruel and terrible. 
Thus " iniquity lieth to itself," and fashions for itself 
an idol of its own, since the god of its fancy is not the 



IGNORANCE OF GOD LEADS TO DESPAIR 447 

Lord. " Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith ? " 
Are you afraid He will refuse to pardon your sins ? 
But, as St. Paul declares, together with His own Hands 
they were fastened to the cross. Or is it the thought of 
penance that terrifies you, who are so tender and deli- 
cate ? But " He remembereth that we are dust." Or is 
it the vices you have contracted and the binding habits 
of sin ? But " the Lord looseth them that are fettered." 
Perhaps you are apprehensive lest, provoked by the 
magnitude and the multitude of your crimes, He should 
hesitate to extend to you a helping hand ? But, accord- 
ing to St. Paul, where sin has abounded grace is wont 
to superabound. Or finally, is it that you are soli- 
citous about your clothes and your food and the other 
necessaries of the body, and are therefore reluctant to 
renounce what you possess ? But " your heavenly 
Father knoweth that you have need of all these things." 
What more can you desire ? What obstacle remains 
still in the way of your salvation ? But the case is as 
I have said. You have not the knowledge of God, and 
you refuse to believe what I tell you of Him. If I could 
only induce you to credit those at least who speak 
from experience ! For " unless you believe you will not 
understand." " But not all have the gift of faith." 

God forbid, my brethren, that we should suppose the 
Spouse to be warned against this danger, that is to 
say, against ignorance of God. For she is favoured, I 
shall not say with so much knowledge of Him Who is at 
once her Bridegroom and her God, but with so much 
friendship and familiarity, that she deserves to enjoy 
frequently His conversation and even His kisses ; and 
now she says to Him with the boldness of an intimate, 
" Show me where Thou feedest, where Thou liest in 



448 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

the mid-day." Here evidently she begs to be shown, 
not Himself, but the " place where His glory dwelleth " ; 
although He is not really distinct either from His place 
or from His glory. But she is considered deserving of 
a reproof on account of her presumption, and of a warn- 
ing about self-knowledge, in which she shows herself 
to be in some degree wanting by esteeming herself 
capable of a vision so great. This presumptuous re- 
quest is due, either to the fact that in an ecstasy of love 
she forgot that she is still in the flesh, or else to the 
vain hope that, whilst abiding still in the body, she 
may be able to attain to the inaccessible brightness of 
the Divinity. Therefore, she is recalled to herself ; she 
is convicted of ignorance and rebuked for her boldness. 
" If thou know not thyself," the Bridegroom answers, 
" go forth." Thus dreadfully does the Bridegroom 
thunder against His Spouse, exhibiting Himself here 
not as a Bridegroom but as a Master. Nor is it out of 
anger that He so threatens her, but to the end that, 
being frightened, she may take pains to purge herself 
of every stain, and thus purified, may be made worthy 
of the vision for which she longs. For it is only the 
clean of heart that shall see God. 

Rightly, too, she is called " beautiful," not abso- 
lutely and in every sense, but " beautiful amongst 
women," that is to say, beautiful with qualifications ; 
and this with the intention of repressing her pre- 
sumption still more, and that she may learn what is yet 
wanting to her. For it seems to me that by the name 
of women are here designated those carnal and worldly 
souls, which have nothing virile in them, which manifest 
no strength or constancy in their activities, but in their 
lives and conduct show themselves entirely lax, soft, 



IGNORANCE OF GOD LEADS TO DESPAIR 449 

and effeminate. The spiritual soul, on the contrary, 
walks not according to the flesh, but according to the 
spirit, and so far is already beautiful. Yet, inasmuch 
as she still lives in the body, she falls short of the per- 
fection of beauty. Hence, she is described, not as 
absolutely beautiful, but as beautiful amongst women. 
That is to say, she is beautiful, in comparison with 
souls which are earthly, and not, like her, spiritual. 
But she is not beautiful, as compared with the blessed 
angels, with the Virtues, Powers, or Dominations. 
Thus, of old, one of the patriarchs was found and called 
"just in his generation," that is, just beyond all the 
other men of his time and generation. Thamar, also, 
is proclaimed justified as compared with Juda, that is, 
more just than Juda. Likewise, in the Gospel, the Pub- 
lican is said to have gone down to his house justified, 
but justified in comparison with the Pharisee. And 
finally, in that magnificent eulogium pronounced upon 
the great Baptist, it is said of him that he is without 
a superior, but only amongst the children of women, 
not amongst the choirs of blessed heavenly spirits. In 
the same way the Spouse is now called beautiful, not 
in relation to the holy angels, but, at least whilst she 
sojourns here below, only amongst women. 

Let the Spouse, therefore, cease, so long as she lives 
on earth, to inquire curiously into the things of heaven, 
lest haply the " searcher of majesty be overwhelmed by 
glory." Let her cease, I repeat, as long as she dwells 
amongst women, to strain after those objects which are 
found in the abode of the high celestial princes, which 
to them alone are visible, to them alone lawful ; for, 
heavenly themselves, they are only suitable for the 
contemplation of heavenly intelligences. " The vision, 

U 2 F 



450 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

O my Spouse," so the Bridegroom seems to speak, 
" which thou desirest to be shown to thee is entirely 
above thy capacity. Thou hast not yet the strength 
to gaze upon that marvellous and meridian brightness 
wherein I dwell. Thou sayst, ' show me where Thou 
feedest, where Thou liest in the mid-day.' But to be 
drawn up into the clouds, to penetrate into the pleni- 
tude of glory, to plunge into abysses of splendour, and 
to dwell in light inaccessible — this neither suits an 
earthly life nor the condition of a mortal body. It is 
reserved for thee until the last day, when I shall 
present thee glorious to Myself, ' not having spot, or 
wrinkle, or any such thing.' Or knowest thou not that 
as long as thou livest upon earth in this body thou 
art an exile from the light ? Whilst thou art not as yet 
wholly beautiful, how canst thou consider thyself cap- 
able of contemplating the Sum and Perfection of all 
beauty ? Or how canst thou ask to see Me in My 
glory before thou hast learned to know thyself ? For 
hadst thou a thorough knowledge of thyself, thou 
wouldst surely understand that, being weighed down 
by a body subject to corruption, thou canst not pos- 
sibly lift up thine eyes to fix them on that Brightness 
on which the angels desire to look. But the time will 
come when I shall appear in My glory, and on that 
day thou shalt be wholly beautiful, just as I am wholly 
beautiful ; and being thus made like to Me, thou shalt 
see Me as I am. Then shalt thou hear it said to thee, 
' Thou art all fair, O my beloved, and there is not a 
spot in thee.' Meantime, although thou art like to Me 
in part, yet, because thou art also in part dissimilar, 
thou must be content to know in part. Attend to 
thyself, and ' seek not the things that are too high 



IGNORANCE OF GOD LEADS TO DESPAIR 451 

for thee, and search not into things above thy 
ability.' For, if thou know not thyself, beautiful 
amongst women — I call thee beautiful, but only amongst 
women, that is, in part, ' but when that which is perfect 
shall come, that which is in part shall be done away.' 

If, then, thou know not thyself " But the words 

which follow have been sufficiently expounded and 
there is no need to repeat. I had promised to put 
some useful considerations before you concerning the 
two kinds of ignorance. If you think I have failed to 
keep that engagement, I beg you to pardon me, as I 
certainly had the good will. " For to will is present 
with me, but to accomplish that which is good I find 
not." That is to say, unless in so far as it shall be 
given to me unto your edification through the gracious 
mercy of the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus Christ 
Our Lord, Who is over all things, God blessed for 
ever. Amen. 



SERMON XXXIX 

On the Chariots of Pharao and the Captains of 

his Host. 

" To My company of horsemen, in Pharao' s chariots, have I 
likened thee, My love." 

" To My company of horsemen, in Pharao's chariots, 
have I likened thee, O My love." From these words, 
my brethren, I gladly infer, in the first place, that the 
patriarchs of old were a type of the Church, and had 
foreshadowed to them the sacraments of our redemp- 
tion. Thus, in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, 
that astounding miracle, whereby the sea rendered 
the people of the Lord the double service of afford- 
ing them a passage and wreaking vengeance on their 
enemies, evidently prefigured the grace of baptism, 
by which our souls are saved and our sins sub- 
merged. " All," says the Apostle, " were under the 
cloud, and all were baptised in the cloud and in 
the sea." But in the first place it is necessary, ac- 
cording to my custom, to show the sequence of the 
words, and the connection between the foregoing and 
the following. Then I shall proceed, if I can, to draw 
from them some consoling truths which may be useful 
for our moral instruction. The Bridegroom, therefore, 
after checking the presumption of His Spouse with a 
harsh and cutting reproof, lest she should abandon 
herself to excessive sadness, now recalls to her mind 
some of the favours she has already received, and 

452 



THE CHARIOTS OF PHARAO 453 

promises others not yet enjoyed. He even calls her 
" beautiful " and His " love." As if He should say, 
" Do not think, O My love, that it is from any feeling 
of dislike or ill-will I have spoken to thee with such 
severity. For in the gifts with which I have honoured 
and adorned thee, thou hast received evident proofs of 
My regard. Nor have I now any intention to take them 
back, but rather to add other and more precious 
favours." Or we may fancy Him speaking thus, " Do 
not take it ill, My cherished Spouse, that thou hast 
not obtained thy present request, because thou hast 
already received many favours of Me and shalt receive 
still greater, provided thou continuest faithful in My 
love." So much for the verbal sequence. 

Now, let us see, my brethren, what are those gifts 
referred to by the Bridegroom, as having been be- 
stowed by Him upon His Spouse. The first is that He 
has likened her to His company of horsemen in the 
chariots of Pharao. This He did by delivering her from 
the yoke of sin, and destroying in her all " the works 
of the flesh," just as the chosen people were set free 
from the servitude of Egypt, all Pharao's chariots being 
overthrown and submerged. That in truth was the 
greatest of mercies. And if, like the Apostle, " I should 
have a mind to glory " in it, " I shall not be foolish; 
for I will say the truth " — that " unless the Lord had 
been my Helper, my soul had almost dwelt in hell." 
I am not ungrateful ; I am not unmindful. " The 
mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever." So much 
have I in common with the Spouse. As for the rest, 
she, by an incommunicable privilege, has been raised, 
after her deliverance, to the rank and dignity of His 
only beloved, and, as the Spouse of the Lord, has been 



454 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

adorned with beauty, but for the present only in her 
cheeks and neck. Moreover, she has been promised 
necklaces for ornaments, and they are to be of gold 
to make the gift more precious, and inlaid with silver 
to enhance their beauty. Who can help admiring the 
wonderful order in which these favours are bestowed ? 
First, she is mercifully liberated ; secondly, she is con- 
descendingly loved ; thirdly, she is kindly cleansed and 
purified ; lastly she receives a promise of the most 
magnificent ornaments. 

I have no doubt, my brethren, that some amongst 
you can already recognise in their own spiritual his- 
tories the realities which I am endeavouring to express 
in words, and, instructed by their own inner experi- 
ence, anticipate in their thoughts the slowness of my 
remarks. Nevertheless, remembering what the Psalmist 
says, "The declaration of Thy words giveth light, and 
giveth understanding to little ones," I think it worth 
while, for the sake of these " little ones," to explain what 
I have been saying somewhat more fully. " For the 
Spirit of wisdom is benevolent," and is pleased with the 
benevolent and diligent instructor, who strives his best 
to satisfy the educated and intelligent, without neglect- 
ing to bend to the capacity of others less gifted. 
Again, as you know, Wisdom Itself, says " They that 
explain Me shall have life everlasting," and I am un- 
willing to lose that reward. And besides, even in 
matters that seem to be plain enough, mysteries may 
sometimes lie concealed, a more careful discussion of 
which will not be without profit even to such as are 
endowed with superior intelligence and quickness of 
apprehension. 

Let us now examine the similitudes of Pharao and 



THE CHARIOTS OF PHARAO 455 

his host and of the Lord's " company of horsemen." 
The comparison is not between the two armies, but 
only taken from them. For " what fellowship hath 
light with darkness ? Or what part hath the faithful 
with the unbeliever ? " But there is an evident analogy 
or ground for comparison between a holy and spiritual 
soul and the " horsemen " of the Lord, and between 
Pharao and Lucifer, and between the host of Egypt 
and the host of hell. Nor will you wonder, my brethren, 
that one soul is likened to a multitude of horsemen, if 
you bear in mind how many battalions of the virtues 
may be marshalled in a single soul, provided she -has 
real sanctity, what orderly disposition she exhibits in 
her affections, what perfect discipline in her morals, 
what effective engines of war in her prayers, what 
energy in her actions, what power to inspire terror in 
her zeal, what constancy in her combats with the 
enemy, and, finally, what frequency in the succession 
of her triumphs. So, in a following verse, the Spouse, 
or the holy soul, is represented to be " terrible as an 
army set in array." And again we read, " What shalt 
thou see in the Sulamitess but the companies of camps ? " 
But if this explanation fails to satisfy you, remember 
that the holy soul is never without a bodyguard — so 
to speak — of angels, who are jealous of her " with the 
jealousy of God," desirous to preserve her for the 
Bridegroom and to " present her as a chaste virgin to 
Christ." And let no one say in his heart, " Where are 
these protecting angels ? Who has ever seen them ? " 
For the Prophet Eliseus saw them, and by prayer ob- 
tained for his servant Giezi that he, also, should see 
them. If, then, you do not see them, it is because you 
are neither prophets nor the servants of a prophet. 



456 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

They were also seen by the Patriarch Jacob, when he 
exclaimed, " These are the camps of God." And by 
the Doctor of nations, who said, " Are they not all 
ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall 
receive the inheritance of salvation ? " 

Protected, therefore, by angelic ministrations, and 
attended wherever she goes by a troop of heavenly 
spirits, the holy soul may justly be likened to the 
horsemen of the Lord, those, namely, who, of old, 
assisted by a stupendous miracle of divine power, 
triumphed over the chariots of Pharao. For if you 
examine the matter carefully, you will find repeated in 
her conflict with the invisible Pharao all the glorious 
achievements which rendered the victory of the Red Sea 
so illustrious and wonderful. The single difference is 
one which makes the soul's triumph only all the more 
magnificent, since what the people of God accomplished 
in type and material figure has been spiritually fulfilled 
in her. Does it not appear to you a more valiant and 
glorious feat to vanquish the devil than to overcome 
King Pharao, to defeat the powers of the air than to 
overthrow the chariots of Egypt ? In the one case the 
struggle was with flesh and blood, in the other the 
" wrestling " was " against principalities and powers, 
against the rulers of the world of this darkness, 
against the spirits of wickedness in high places." Let 
us together draw out and study the comparison in all its 
details. On the one side is the chosen people delivered 
from Egypt, on the other a soul rescued from the 
world ; there Pharao is defeated, here it is Lucifer ; 
there the chariots of the tyrant are overthrown, here 
are extinguished earthly and " carnal desires which 
war against the soul " ; there the fight is carried on 



THE CHARIOTS OF PHARAO 457 

amid floods of briny water, here amid floods of bitter 
tears. And I can fancy the demons, whenever they 
happen upon a faithful soul, crying out like the Egyp- 
tians of old, " Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord 
fighteth for them against us." Do you wish me now 
to designate by their proper names some of the captains 
of Pharao's host, and to describe some of the chariots, 
so that by adopting the method which I shall employ, 
you may be able to find out and identify all the 
others for yourselves ? I tell you, then, that one of 
the mightiest princes of the spiritual and invisible 
Pharao is called Malice, another is named Luxury, and 
a third Avarice. These govern their several provinces 
with dependence on the king, who defines for each the 
limits of his jurisdiction. Thus Malice has dominion 
over the whole territory of injury and outrage. Luxury 
presides over uncleanness and the sins of the flesh. To 
Avarice it has been given to rule the wide areas of 
rapine and fraud. 

Attend now whilst I explain what manner of chariots 
Pharao has furnished his princes with for the pursuit 
of the people of God. The chariot of Malice moves 
upon four wheels, which are called Cruelty, Impatience, 
Audacity, and Impudence. For this chariot is ex- 
tremely " swift to shed blood," and is neither stopped 
by innocence, nor retarded by patience, nor restrained 
by fear, nor held back by shame. It is drawn by two 
very mettlesome horses, ever ready to rush forward to 
all kinds of destruction and slaughter, and their names 
are Earthly Power and Worldly Pomp. For this four- 
wheeled car of Malice moves with the greatest 
velocity when, on the one hand, it is yoked to power 
adequate to the accomplishment of his malevolent 



458 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

purposes, and, on the other, has the pomp and glory of 
popular favour to applaud his most criminal deeds. 
So that we see fulfilled in it the words of the Psalmist, 
" For the sinner is praised in the desires of his heart, 
and the unjust man is blessed." " And again, another 
Scripture sarin," " This is your hour and the power of 
darkness." The horses are in charge of two charioteers, 
Pride and Envy, the former driving Pomp and the 
latter Power. For he who has allowed his heart within 
to swell with self-conceit shall soon be carried away 
swiftly by the love of satanical pomp. But the man 
that is firmly established in himself, who is prudently 
self -restrained, gravely modest, solidly humble, chastely 
whole, such a man is in no danger of being blown lightly 
about by the wind of vanity. In the same way, does 
it not seem to you that Envy rides upon the horse of 
Power and urges him onwaid by pricking his flanks 
with the two spurs of Jealousy, by which I mean the 
apprehension of death or decline, and the dread of 
deposition ? For the fear of having soon to yield place 
to a successor is quite distinct from the fear of an 
invading usurper. Such then are the goads wherewith 
the horse of Power is driven forward. And that is all 
I find to say about the chariot of Malice. 

The chariot of Luxury also runs upon four wheels 
of subservient vices, namely, Gluttony, Carnal Desire, 
Love of Fine Dress, and the Enervation begotten of 
languor and sloth. It, too, has its pair of horses to 
draw it, which are Prosperity in life and Abundance 
of earthly goods. These are driven by the charioteers, 
Lazy Languor and False Security ; for abundance is 
the ruin of the lazy, and according to Scripture, " The 
prosperity of fools shall destroy them," no doubt be- 



THE CHARIOTS OF PHARAO 459 

cause it renders them falsely secure. " For when they 
shall say, peace and security, then shall sudden de- 
struction come upon them." The charioteers of Luxury 
have neither whips nor spurs, nor anything at all of that 
kind ; but they use a kind of parasol * to protect them 
from the sun, and a kind of fan for exciting a refreshing 
breeze. This parasol is nothing else than Dissimula- 
tion, which, in a metaphorical sense, makes a shade for 
the mind, and shelters it from the heat of care and 
worry. Now, it is characteristic of soft and effeminate 
souls to put aside even necessary and urgent cares, 
and to conceal themselves in the shadow of Dissimula- 
tion, lest they should feel the burning heat of solicitude. 
The fan bears the name of Profuse Liberality, and the 
wind that they produce is the balmy breeze of Adula- 
tion. For sensual souls affect prodigality, desirous to 
purchase for gold the light wind produced by the lips 
of flatterers. So much for the chariot of Lust. 

Prince Avarice, similarly, has four wheels to his car. 
They are the vices of Pusillanimity, Inhumanity, Con- 
tempt of God, and Forgetfulness of Death. The horses 
that draw him are Obstinacy and Rapacity ; and the 
two are managed by one driver, who is called Greed of 
Gain. For Avarice is singular in this, that he is con- 
tent with one servant, his niggardliness not suffering 
him to employ any more. But his single driver dis- 
plays admirable promptitude and tireless zeal in the 
execution of every order, using the rousing whips of 
Passion for Acquiring and Fear of Losing to stimulate 
the horses that draw him. 

* Conopeum — Ka>v<oireLov from Kwvayj/ — a gnat — was the name 
given to a fine gauze net used, in Egypt as a protection against 
gnats or mosquitos. The English word, canopy, is evidently 
derived from it. — (Translator.) 



460 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Besides those I have mentioned, there are many 
other princes under the king of Egypt, who have like- 
wise their own chariot s for the service of their master. For 
instance, there is Pride, who is one of his greatest cap- 
tains, and Impiety, the enemy of the true faith, who 
holds high rank in Pharao's palace and kingdom ; whilst 
of nobles and knights of inferior degree the army of 
Egypt contains a countless multitude, whose names 
and offices and arm? and equipments I leave you to 
discover for yourselves by your own meditations, for 
it will furnish profitable employment for your minds. 
It is therefore in the strength of these captains and their 
chariots that the invisible Pharao, like a cruel tyrant, 
vents his fury on the servants of the Lord, to the utmost 
of his power, rushing wilh rage upon them from every 
direction, and, even in our own day, is still pursuing the 
Israelites as they try to escape out of Egypt. The 
chosen people, on the other hand, have neither chariots 
in which to ride, nor arms wherewith to defend them- 
selves ; nevertheless, with no other protection but the 
Hand of the Lord, they can exclaim with confidence, 
" Let us sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously magni- 
fied, and horse and rider He hath thrown into the sea." 
And, " Some trust in chariots and some in horses ; 
but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God." 
But perhaps I have now said enough on the com- 
parison drawn from the horsemen of the Lord and the 
chariots of Pharao.* 

* It is not impossible that the author of Pilgrim's Progress 
was indebted to this fine allegory for some suggestions in the 
composition of his masterpiece. Dr. Stebbing, in a note to 
his edition of Bunyan, admits that honest John was by no means 
as original as people generally suppose, and actually modelled 
his best-known work on a translation of a French production, 



THE CHARIOTS OF PHARAO 461 

After using this similitude, the Bridegroom addresses 
the Spouse as His "love." He indeed was her Lover, 
even before her deliverance from the bondage of sin ; for 
had He not loved her He certainly would not have set 
her free. But it was in consequence of the benefit of 
emancipation that she became His love, that is to 
say, filled with His love. Listen to herself bearing 
testimony to this truth, " not as though we had loved 
God, but because He hath first loved us." I now 
ask you, my brethren, to recall to mind the marriage 
of Moses to the daughter of the Madianite Raguel, and 
to recognise in that a foreshadowing of the spiritual 
union of Christ and the penitent soul. I also ask you 
to say, if you can, what it is you find most pleasant and 
consoling in your meditations on that sweetest of mys- 
teries, whether the gracious condescension of the Word, 
or the inconceivable exaltation of the soul, or finally, 
the amazing confidence of the sinner. Moses was unable 
to render fair Sephoia's swarthy complexion. But 
what he could not do for the Madianitess, Christ can 
and does accomplish for the soul He espouses. Hence 
we read in the following verse, " Thy cheeks are beau- 
tiful ar the turtle dove's." But I reserve this for another 
sermon, so that we may always partake with eager 
appetites of the good things set before us on the Bride- 
groom's table, and then pour out our souls unto the 
praise and glory of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is 
over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen. 

entitled Les trois Ptterinages. Now, the author of this book 
was a Cistercian monk, one Guillaume de Guiileville, who died 
in 1360, in the abbey of Chalis. He must therefore have been 
familiar with the writings of his great Patron, and doubtless 
derived therefrom his inspiration. — (Translator.) 



SERMON XL 

On the Cheeks of the Spouse and what constitutes 

their Beauty. 

" Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove's." 

The Spouse, my brethren, is extremely bashful and 
sensitive. Hence, as it appears to me, she must have 
blushed scarlet at the sharp reproof of her Beloved, 
and, looking more lovely than ever in her embarrass- 
ment, merited to hear from Him, immediately, the 
eulogium, '* Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle 
dove's." But you must not take these words in a 
materialistic sense, as if there were question here of 
the visible blush on mortal flesh, arising from the even 
diffusion of a corruptible fluid, ruddy or crimson, close 
beneath the superficies of a pale and transparent skin ; 
for it is the mixing and combining of these colours in 
due proportion that produce the red-and-white com- 
plexion which adorns the face with physical beauty. 
The soul is an immaterial and invisible substance, pos- 
sessing neither distinction of bodily members, nor 
capacity for the ornamentation of sensible colours. 
Try, then, as best you can, to conceive a spiritual 
essence in a spiritual way ; and, to preserve the aptness 
of the similitude proposed, understand the face of the 
soul to be the intention of the mind. For it is from 
the intention that we estimate the merit of a work, 
just as the beauty of the body is judged from the face. 

Consider, moreover, that the blush which suffuses the 

462 



THE CHEEKS OF THE SPOUSE 463 

soul's face is nothing else than her modesty, which is 
compared to a blush, because it, in an especial way, 
enhances her beauty and increases her grace. There- 
fore is it said to her, " Thy cheeks are beautiful as the 
turtle dove's." It would indeed be more in conformity 
with usage to speak of the face and to describe it as 
beautiful ; for, according to custom, whenever we wish 
to praise anyone on account of her beauty, we say, 
"she has a lovely" or "a beautiful face." But, al- 
though I am not sure what it is, I nevertheless feel 
quite certain that the Bridegroom has something very 
particular in view in preferring to mention the cheeks. 
For we must remember that He Who speaks is the 
Spirit of Wisdom, and it would be impious to suppose 
that He could use words without significance, or other- 
wise than they ought to be used. Therefore, whatever 
it is, a reason there certainly must be why He chooses 
to refer to the cheeks in the plural, rather than to the 
face in the singular. And, if you can suggest nothing 
more plausible, I will offer for your consideration the 
explanation which occurs to me. 

There are two things, my brethren, necessarily im- 
plied in every act of intention (which, as I have said, 
is the face of the soul) and these are the object and the 
motive, that is to say, what you intend and the reason 
that determines you. Now it is according to these two 
elements that the beauty or deformity of the soul is 
estimated ; so that a soul wherein both are pure and 
righteous is judged to be beautiful and deserves to have 
applied to her the words, " Thy cheeks are beautiful as 
the turtle dove's." But should she be found defective in 
one or other, then it would be no longer true to say to 
her, " Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove's," 



464 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

because of the partial deformity which she exhibits. 
Much less can this eulogium be applied to the soul 
which has neither a good object nor a good motive in 
her intentions. All this will appear more evident from 
examples. If a person, for instance, gives up his mind 
to the investigation of truth, and that purely from the 
love of truth, does it not seem to you that in his case 
both the object and the motive are equally excellent 
and that he has every right to apply to himself the 
Words of the Bridegroom, " Thy cheeks are beautiful 
as the turtle dove's " ? For in neither of the cheeks 
of the soul that is such, does there appear any spot or 
speck of evil. But were a soul to apply herself to the 
quest after truth, not for the sake of truth, but from 
the desire of vainglory, or with a view to some tem- 
poral advantage, although one of her cheeks, viz., the 
object of her intention, appears vested with beauty, yet 
because the other has been denied by the baseness of 
the motive, I have no doubt you would pronounce her 
at least partially deformed. And if you were to see 
another soul devoting her energies to no honourable 
object, but sunk in sensuality, given up completely to 
the pleasures of the table and the delights of the flesh, 
as being one of those " whose God is their belly, and 
whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things," 
what would be your verdict on her ? Would you not 
declare her to be repulsive in both cheeks, as having 
at once a bad motive and a bad object in her intention ? 
It is, consequently, a mark of a worldly soul, both 
of whose cheeks are devoid of beauty, to make the world 
rather than God the object of her intention. The hypo- 
critical soul, on the contrary, is characterised by the 
fact that she does indeed, at least in some sense, direct 



THE CHEEKS OF THE SPOUSE 465 

her intention towards God, yet not for the sake of 
God. And although this divine regard, such as it is, 
seems to beautify one of her cheeks, the insincerity of 
her piety destroys all her attractions and spreads the 
deformity of ugliness over her whole face. Again, 
to turn to God either solely or principally for 
the sake of the necessaries of this present life, 
renders the soul — I will not say defiled with the filth 
of hypocrisy, but deficient in the brightness of purity — 
the effect of pusillanimity — and consequently less ac- 
ceptable. On the other hand, to aim at something 
other than God, yet on account of God, is not indeed 
the peaceful repose of Mary, but rather the busy soli- 
citude of Martha. But God forbid that I should assert 
the existence of any deformity in such a soul. Yet 
neither would I affirm that she has attained to the 
perfection of spiritual beauty, because she is still 
" careful and troubled about many things," and cannot 
but be sprinkled, however slightly, with the dust of 
earthly occupations.* However, such inconsiderable 
stains will be easily and quickly removed, at least in 
the hour of a holy death, by the merit of a pure in- 
tention and the testimony of a good conscience towards 
God. Therefore, she alone, whose intention is directed 
to God for His own sake, exhibits absolute beauty in 
both cheeks. And this is proper and special to the 
Spouse, who by reason of her singular prerogative, 
deserves to be saluted by her Bridegroom with the 
words, "Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove's." 

* " Et non potest terrenorum actuum vel tenui pulvere non 
respergi," with which compare the words of St. Leo the Great 
in his fourth Lenten sermon : " Dum per varias actiones vitae 
hujus sollicitudo distenditur, necesse est de mundano pulvere 
etiam religiosa corda sordescere." — (Translator.) 

I. 2 g 



466 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

But why is she compared to the turtle dove ? No 
doubt, because this bird is remarkable for shyness, does 
not consort with many, and is said to be content with 
the company of a single mate ; and if she should lose 
him, she seeks no other, but leads thereafter a solitary 
life. Do you, therefore, my brethren, who are listen- 
ing to me, lest you should hear to no purpose what 
has been written for your good, and is now for your 
good being examined and discussed — do you, I say, 
moved by these exhortations of the Holy Spirit, and 
animated with an ardent desire to discover how you 
may make your souls the spouses of Christ, study to 
beautify the two cheeks of your intention, that, after 
the example of the turtle dove, the most modest of 
birds, you may sit solitary, as the Prophet Jeremias 
says, because you have raised yourselves above your- 
selves. For surely it is to be raised above yourselves 
to be espoused to the Lord of angels. Are you not 
raised above yourselves when you cleave to God and 
are made one Spirit with Him ? Sit solitary, then, 
like the turtle dove. Have nothing to do with the 
throng, nothing in common with the multitude of 
men. O holy soul, even " forget thy people and thy 
father's house, and the King shall greatly desire thy 
beauty." Remain alone, and amongst all preserve 
thyself for Him alone, Who has chosen thee from 
amongst all. Shun the public view ; shun even the 
members of thine own household ; withdraw from the 
company of friends and familiars, even from him who 
ministers to thy necessities. Knowest thou not that 
thy Beloved is of a shy disposition, and will not lend 
thee His presence in the presence of others ? Seek 
solitude, therefore, not of the body, but of the mind 



THE CHEEKS OF THE SPOUSE 467 

and of the spirit, solitude in intention and in devotion. 
For " a Spirit before thy face is Christ the Lord," and 
what He requires of thee is not a physical but a spiri- 
tual isolation. Nevertheless, thou wouldst do well to 
withdraw thyself in body as well from time to time, 
according to thy opportunity, and especially at the 
hour of prayer. Thou hast for this also both the pre- 
cept and the example of thy Beloved. " But thou," 
He says, " when thou shalt pray, enter thy chamber, 
and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret." 
And what He preached to others, He practised Himself. 
He used to pass the night alone in prayer, separating 
Himself not only from the crowds, but also from every 
one of His disciples, not even excepting His most 
familiar friends. When of His own accord He was 
hastening to meet death, He took with Him the three 
apostles with whom He was most intimate. But He 
retired even from their company when He wished to 
pray. Therefore, do thou act similarly when thou 
wouldst give thyself to the exercise of prayer. 

For the rest, nothing more is enjoined you, my 
brethren, but the solitude of mind and of spirit. You 
are alone in this way, when you exclude the thought of 
common things, and all attachment to present things ; 
when you contemn what the many admire, and count 
as nothing what they eagerly covet ; when you avoid dis- 
putes, make light of temporal losses and forget injuries. 
Otherwise, you will not be really alone, even when you 
have no visible company. Or do you not understand 
that one can be alone although surrounded by a multi- 
tude and, contrariwise, one can be in the company of 
many when exteriorly alone ? You are alone, my 
brethren, no matter what number are with you, pro- 



468 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

vided you are careful neither to inquire too curiously 
into the conduct of your neighbour, nor rashly to sit 
in judgment upon his doings. And if you happen to 
discover some fault in him, even so, beware of con- 
demning, but rather excuse. At least excuse the in- 
tention, if you cannot excuse the act. Believe that 
what appears blameworthy is due to ignorance, or to 
surprise, or to mere accident. But if the guilt is so 
manifest that you cannot shut your eyes to it, still 
do your best to extenuate what you are unable to 
excuse, and say to yourselves, " The temptation no doubt 
was exceedingly strong. What would have become of 
me were I subjected to a similar trial ? " And remem- 
ber that it is to the Spouse I have been speaking thus, 
not to the friend of the Bridegroom.* For the latter 
has the special duty of keeping diligent watch to prevent 
sin on the part of his charge, of examining whether 
sin has been committed, and, if so, of administering due 
correction. But the Spouse is under no such obli- 
gation and lives to herself alone and to Him Whom she 
loves, her Bridegroom and her Lord, Who is over all 
things, God blessed for ever. Amen. 

* By the friend of the Bridegroom the Saint evidently means 
a religious Superior, who is responsible for the conduct of those 
committed to his care. — (Translator.) 



SERMON XLI 

On what is meant by the Neck of the Spouse and 
by the Chains of Gold promised Her. 

" Thy neck (is) as jewels ; we will make thee chains of gold inlaid 

with silver." 

" Thy neck (is) as jewels." It is more usual, my 
brethren, for the neck to be adorned with jewels than 
to be compared to them. But the reason why people 
wear necklaces of jewels is because, having no beauty 
of their own, they are obliged to borrow from outer 
objects wherewith to simulate what nature denied them. 
Such is not the case with the Spouse of Christ. Her 
neck is in itself so beautiful and so perfectly formed 
by nature that it has no need of artificial embellish- 
ments. For why should that be decorated with the 
mendacious splendour of foreign hues, which possesses 
in itself a sufficiency of native and intrinsic loveliness, 
so much, in fact, as to rival the beauty of whatever 
jewels might be used to adorn it ? This is what the 
Bridegroom gives us to understand when He says, 
not " Thy neck is encircled with jewels," but " Thy 
neck is as jewels " Here we must implore the light 
of the Holy Spirit, that, as He enabled us to discover 
the spiritual cheeks of the Spouse, He would also deign 
to show us what is to be understood by her spiritual 
neck. As for me, who am under obligation to tell you 

what I think, the most probable and satisfactory ex- 

469 



470 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

planation I have been so far able to find is to suppose 
that by the name of neck is here designated the in- 
tellect of the soul. And I venture to think you will 
agree with me in this view, when you examine the 
reason of the comparison. For do you not perceive 
that the intellect discharges for the soul functions ana- 
logous to those which the neck performs for the body, 
since it is through the intellect that all spiritual food 
passes into the soul, and is conveyed to the digestive 
organs of the will and the affections ? The neck of 
the Spouse, therefore, understood in this sense, that is, 
the pure intellect, has no need of any borrowed em- 
bellishments, being sufficiently adorned with its simple 
and naked truth. Rather it is itself the beauty of 
the soul, as a most precious ornament, and for this 
reason it is likened to jewels. For truth is a priceless 
jewel ; and so are purity and simplicity ; and so is the 
wisdom that is " unto sobriety." | But the intellect of 
philosophers and heretics possesses in itself none of 
the splendours of purity and truth, and hence they are 
at such pains to deck it out and to set it off with the 
trumpery of grand words and syllogistic sophistry, lest, 
by showing itself as it really is, the turpitude of its 
falsity should be also made manifest.! 

It is added, " We will make thee chains of gold, 
inlaid with silver." If it were said in the singular, 
" I will make," and not in the plural, " we will make," 
I should pronounce absolutely and unhesitatingly that 
the Bridegroom is the speaker here also. But consider 
now whether these words would not be better and more 
fittingly attributed to His companions, who are, as it 
were, trying to console the Spouse with a promise that, 
as she cannot yet attain to the vision of Him for Whose 



THE NECK OF THE SPOUSE 47* 

presence she pines, they will make for her beautiful 
and costly chains, as ornaments for her ears. The 
reason why she is especially promised ear-pendants is, 
as I think, because " faith cometh by hearing." It also 
reminds us that as long as we walk by faith and not 
by sight, it is more important and necessary to ex- 
ercise the ear in listening to instruction than the eye 
in contemplation. For it is useless to strain the sight 
if the heart be not purified by faith, since it is only to 
the clean of heart that the vision of God is promised. 
Hence it is written " purifying their hearts by faith." 
Therefore, inasmuch as "faith cometh by hearing," 
and by faith the purification of the sight, rightly do 
the companions of the Bridegroom apply themselves par- 
ticularly to the task of adorning the ears of the Spouse. 
For reason itself teaches us that hearing is a prepara- 
tion for vision. " Thou, O Spouse of Christ," we may 
fancy them saying, " art longing impatiently to con- 
template thy Beloved in His glory. But this happiness 
is reserved for the other life. Meantime we will present 
thee with ornaments for thine ears, which shall be a 
consolation to thee whilst thou art waiting, and a pre- 
paration for the favour thou hast solicited." Or they 
may be supposed to address her in the words of the 
Psalmist, " ' Hearken, O daughter, and see.' Thou dost 
desire to see, but first it is necessary to hearken. Hear- 
ing is the way to sight. Hearken, then, ' and incline 
thine ear,' for the ornaments which we make for thee, 
that through the obedience of faith thou may attain 
to the glory of vision. To thy hearing we will ' give 
joy and gladness.' But to grant thee the satisfaction 
of sight, wherein consist the perfection of happiness 
and the fulfilment of thy desires, belongs not to us, but 



472 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

to Him Whom thy soul loveth. He will show Himself 
to thee that thy joy may be full. He ' will fill thee 
with joy with His Countenance.' But in the mean- 
time, until thou attain to these ' delights at His Right 
Hand even to the end,' receive for thy consolation 
these ornaments from our hands." 

We must now consider, my brethren, what kind are 
the chains they offer her. " Chains of gold," we read, 
'' inlaid with silver." By gold we are to understand the 
brightness of the Divinity and also the " wisdom which 
is from above." It is therefore of such immaterial gold 
that the heavenly artificers, who are charged with this 
ministry, promise to make for the Spouse resplendent 
seals, as it were, of truth, and to fit them on the in- 
ternal ears of her soul. This, as I take it, means 
nothing else than that they purpose to devise certain 
spiritual representations, by means of which they will 
present to the view of the soul, whilst she is engaged 
in contemplation, the purest images of the Divine 
Wisdom ; in order that she may be able to see, at least 
"through a glass in a dark manner," Him Whom it 
is not yet given her to behold face to face. These 
things, which I speak of, are altogether divine, and 
absolutely unintelligible except to those who have ex- 
perienced them. For without the experience it is 
impossible to understand how it is that, whilst we are 
still in this body of corruption and walking by faith, with 
the glory of the Divinity still veiled from our view, the 
contemplation of pure truth nevertheless presumes to 
exercise its functions, at least in part and occasionally ; 
so that each of us, on whom God has bestowed this 
extraordinary favour, may boldly say with the Apostle, 
" Now I know in part," and " We know in part and we 



THE NECK OF THE SPOUSE 473 

prophesy in part." But whenever the soul transported 
o7of hersetf, is thus granted a elearer vision* of h 
Divine Majesty, yet only for a moment and with the 
velocity, so to speak, of the lightning flash ther ^are 
suddenly presented to her imagination, from what 
.el .mow not, certain images of fctoor *g£ 
which admirably help and harmonise with the higher 

* Of the same fV^jg^^^SK 
"Whilst the soul is m this ecstasj °« r mys teries and 

discovering to her seere^s such a h^venly .1 y^ ^ 

imaginary visions. . . . Though | tne y oi 

describing them, they are deeply > m P»° te<1 d ravishes the 
the soul and are never forgotten . I think God 
soul completely into Himself as His ver> own 
and shows her some smal part o the ^om^ s ome rf ^ 
St. John of the Cross B»"J ^ soul) so that 

many veils and coverings that are before h J ^^ 

she -^. s !? ;'^ s H a e re IS no t rawn back-that of faith re- 
because all the veils are n g through and 

because she is solely occupied in losing God, Who 1 ^in y 

present to her ^"£^£^%££Ll.. it 
Foligno : ^hen tte M^ .E^h^ she seeth Him within her, 

see God. God manuestb run duration of this 

represents Him^erfecUy. As to^d ^ 

^: D k^ro e ng ifmay have been .during which tt. facu, £ 
of the soul are entranced, is very short U hall an n.o 
01 xne su m -vTarv Magdalen de Pazzi, liKe at. 

would be a long time. st. lvidry m% M 

• j +t,o+ ^r>mr>pllpd mv admiration, 1 saw xnereuy m 
majesty that J^P^?/ 11 ^^" Similarly, St. Gregory 
immensity of the Divine essence. j Prayer, 

and other mystical writers.-See Poulain, Graces oj rray , 
pp. 266-282 —(Translator.) 



474 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

impression of the Divinity. These imaginative repre- 
sentations are intended, no doubt, both to temper the 
excessive splendour of the Light Uncreated and to 
facilitate its communication ; for they intercept that 
most pure and dazzling ray of Divine Truth, like clouds 
before the face of the sun, render it more tolerable to 
the soul, and more capable of being transmitted to 
whomsoever we please. In my opinion, they are formed 
m our minds by the inspirations of holy angels, just as 
evil imaginations are unquestionably suggested by the 
wicked spirits. 

And perhaps we have here that darksome mirror 
through which, as you have read, the Apostle gazed, and 
which is fashioned, so it seems, by angelic hands out 
of such pure and beautiful images. Thus we may 
ascribe to God that representation of spiritual truth 
which in itself is quite distinct from any phantasy of 
corporeal properties, whilst we attribute to the ministry 
of angels all the splendid imagery with which it ap- 
pears surrounded and clothed. In a different reading 
of the same text this seems to be more clearly indicated. 
According to that version the companions of the Bride- 
groom say, " We, the artificers, will make for thee 
images of gold, with distinctions or ornaments of 
silver." * The phrases, " inlaid with silver " and " with 
ornaments of silver » do not differ in meaning. To 
my mind this appears to signify that not only do the 
holy angels form within us, by suggestion, the imagi- 
native representations referred to, but they even 
supply us with suitable words to express what they 
have enabled us to conceive ; so that our ideas, dressed 

* • Ouoiupara xpW ri w VO uf<rotfv <roi fierh o-tiWtw tov 
apyvptov. ai n m the Septuagint Version. - (Translator.) 



THE NECK OF THE SPOUSE 475 

ou t in apt and *»°^ *%£'£'£ p^Te". 
hended by our hearers ^f^J^^Ji, there 
But you may ob ]e ct and ^ t0 ™; 7>> WeU , the 
in common between * lver a^.^f. The of 

Psalmist shall give you the answer l 
the Lord," he says, - are pure ^T^'SStl 
the fire." It is in this sense then that ^ he 

ing spires of 2«3* ^2Sift silver" 

TutTe^e my breS;::,°ho & w the Spouse asks one 

But observe, my the se 

thing and obtains another. She longs ^ 

°V° ntem trof'pre n oh ng si Thirsts for her Bride- 

5 bringing forth and nourishing «^' £, 
is this the only occa^n she ha been so ^ ^ 

before, as I recollect, she met w 

She was sighing for the embraces and the ^ses 

j w rweived the answer, hor tny uica. 
Beloved, but received tn remin ded of 

are better than wine, by -J* her little 

her motherhood, and of the QUt y wiU dis . 

„ -,.,,1 fnsterine her children. remaps you 
•r to v«TSv«. f»..h=t inrt.nc in other vera* 

°Vo „ no. f»« th« — • ^^Tl^^ <- 



476 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

"chains of gold, inlaid with silver," that is, wisdom 
and eloquence, doubtless for the office of preaching 

We learn from this, my brethren, that the kisses of 
divine contemplation must be often interrupted for the 
purpose of giving suck to the little ones, and that no 
one ought to live for himself alone, but all for all. Woe 
to those who have received the capacity for conceiving 
worthy sentiments of God and fittingly expressing them, 
it they look upon religion as a source of gain, if they 
make subservient to vainglory the talents entrusted to 
them to be employed in the service of their Master, 
if they are high-minded and unwilling to condescend 
to the humble ! Let them fear lest what the Lord 
says b y ^ mouth o{ the prophet ^ ^^ 

to themselves, " I gave them My gold and My silver ; 
but they have used My gold and My silver in the ser- 
vice of Baal." * Listen now to the answer which the 
Spouse makes on receiving thus a reproof from her 
bridegroom and a promise from His companions. She 
is neither angered by the one nor elated by the other 
but behaves in accordance with what is written " Re- 
buke a wise man and he will love thee," and, with 
reference to gifts and promises, " The greater thou art, 
the more humble thyself in all things." That she regu- 
lated her conduct by these counsels will appear from 
her reply. But, with your leave, I shall make that the 
text of another sermon. Meantime, let what has been 
said excite us to glorify the Bridegroom of the Church 
Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who is over all things, God 
blessed for ever. Amen. 

aJentfmeott d^r meUm et ^^^ meum - S P si ante » *» 
argento meo et de auro meo operati sunt Baal." This is either 

taken from some unknown version, or quoted incorrectly £," 

text most hke ,t m the Vulgate is Osee ii. 8 : " Argentam muHi- 

piicav, e. et aurum, quae fecerunt BaaI."-(Tran!atoT 



SERMON XLII 

On Submission to Correction, and the two Kinds 

of Humility. 

ni wv<c vp-bose my spikenard sent forth the 
«' While the King was at His repose, my y 

odours thereof. 

« While the King was at His repose, my spikenard 
sent forth the odour thereof." These, my brethren 
are ae words of the Spouse, the discussion of which 
I "oSoned until to-day. This is the ™>«*££ 
when rebuked by her Bridegroom. Yet rt « addled, 
not to Him, but to His companions, as you may clearly 
s« from the words themselves. For she does not say, 
sneatog in the second person, "While Thou, O King 
S a^Thy repose"; but, "^^^ 

thtt^Brlde^oJ, after reprimanding and > humbling 

the Spouse, as we have seen ^^*«'*™£ 
confusion from the blush which mantled her ^ cheeks 
withdrew from the company, in order o give ^her ^an 
opportunity of speaking her mmd freely in His absence 
and, in cal she should pass from excessive boMnes 
to excessive timidity and depression of mind as com 
monly happens, that she might receive consolation and 
moiuv iff > rharitv of His companions, 

encouragement from the chanty 01 * 

Yet He did not neglect to comfort her HimseU as far 
as He judged it necessary at the time. For to make 
it manuJ f how pleasing she was to Him, even wh-lst 

All 



478 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

He corrected her, inasmuch as she bore that correction 
patiently and in the proper spirit, He could not leave 
her until He broke forth in praise of her-out of the 
abundant love, no doubt, with which His Heart was 
nlled-and spoke in admiration of her beautiful cheeks 
and neck. Therefore, His companions also, who have 
renamed with her, address her in words of gracious 
kindness and offer her presents, knowing this to be the 
will of then Lord. Hence, it is to them that she directs 
her answer. Such, I think, is the literal sense and the 
sequence of our present text. 

But before proceeding to extract the kernel of spiri- 
tual truth from this shell of literal meaning, I wish to 
make one brief remark. Happy the superior whose repri- 
mands are received in that spirit of humble submission 
of which we have here so perfect a model ! Would to 
God there was no necessity for reprimands at all | That 
would be better still. But since " in many things we 
all offend, ,t ,s not permitted me to keep silence 
having an obligation in virtue of my office, and a still 
more urgent impulse from fraternal charity, to reprove 
transgressors. But if I administer a reproof and so do 
my part, and if that reproof, proceeding from me, in- 
stead of accomplishing its purpose, and correcting the 
fault to which it was applied, should return to me empty 
like a dart which impinges on a hard substance and 
rebounds, what think you, my brethren, shall be then 
my feelings ? Shall I not be filled with grief and an- 
guish i And to borrow something from the words of 
my master, St. Paul, since my own wisdom suffices me 
not, I am straitened between two and what I shall 
choose I know not," whether to approve of my action 
in making the correction, as being only what I was 



ON SUBMISSION TO CORRECTION 479 

bound to do ; or to repent of it, because it has not suc- 
ceeded according to my desires and expectations. It 
was my design to slay an enemy and to deliver a brother. 
But so far from accomplishing this, my zeal has pro- 
duced just the contrary effect. For it has wounded my 
brother's soul and increased his guilt by adding con- 
tempt of authority to his original fault. "The house 
of Israel," says the Lord through His Prophet Ezechiel, 
" will not hearken to thee because they will not hearken 
to Me." See now, my brother, what is the Majesty 
which thou hast treated with contempt. Do not 
imagine thou art despising only me. The Lord has 
spoken it, and what He said to Israel by His Prophet, 
He repeated with His own Lips to His apostles, in the 
words, " He that despiseth you despiseth Me." I am 
not indeed a prophet, nor am I an apostle. Neverthe- 
less, I dare to say it, I hold the office and discharge the 
duties of both a prophet and an apostle. I am bur- 
dened with the cares and responsibilities of those who 
are far beyond me by the merit of their lives. Al- 
though it be to my own great confusion, although it 
be to my own awful danger, although I cannot pretend 
to rival the Lawgiver's virtue or to equal him in grace, 
still I sit on the chair of Moses. What then ? Is that 
chair less deserving of respect and submission because 
it is occupied by one unworthy ? Surely not. Even 
if it were Scribes and Pharisees that sat on it we have 
still the command of Christ: "What they say, do ye." 
As a rule, in such cases, impatience is added to 
contempt. Not only does the person reprimanded 
refuse to coirect his fault, but he even manifests anger 
against the superior who has reproved him, like the 
frenzied patient who repels the hand of the physician. 



480 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

Strange perversity ! He is angry with the friend who 
comes to heal, but shows no indignation with the enemy 
who has hurt him ! For there is an enemy who with his 
arrows " shoots in the dark the upright of heart," and 
it is he who has now wounded thee even unto death. 
Dost thou feel no resentment against him ? And art 
thou enraged against me, whose only desire is to make 
thee whole ? " Be angry," says the Psalmist, " and 
sin not." If thy anger be directed against thy sin, 
not only dost thou not sin anew, but thy previous sin 
is blotted out. But now thou refusest the remedy and 
thy sin remains. Yes, thou addest sin to sin by giving 
way to unreasonable anger, and that is a sin of exceeding 
malice. 

Sometimes this anger is accompanied with impudence. 
The person who is reproved, not satisfied with showing 
resentment against his superior, goes so far as to defend 
impudently the fault for which he has been corrected. 
The man who acts thus has evidently become reckless 
and lost to shame. It is of such that the Lord said 
by the Prophet Jeremias, " Thou hadst a harlot's fore- 
head, thou wouldst not blush," and by Ezechiel, " My 
jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will cease and be 
angry no more." The very sound of these words makes 
me tremble. Do you not perceive from them, my 
brethren, how dangerous, how horrible, how dreadful 
a thing it is to attempt to justify one's own sin ? In 
another place He says, " Such as I love, I rebuke and 
chastise." Therefore, if the jealousy and anger of God 
have abandoned thee, so has His love. One who is 
deemed unworthy of His chastisement, will certainly 
be considered undeserving of His love. " Let us have 
pity on the wicked," He says, " but he will not learn 



ON SUBMISSION TO CORRECTION 481 

to do justice." Far from me be such pity ! Such 
pity is more to be dreaded than the fiercest anger, 
since it blocks up against the sinner the path to justi- 
fication. It were much better, according to the advice 
of the Psalmist, to " embrace discipline, lest at any 
time the Lord be angry, and you perish from the just 
way." I pray thee, O Father of mercies, to exercise 
Thy anger against me, only let it be the anger wherewith 
Thou dost correct the sinner, not that by which Thou 
shuttest him out eternally from the way of justice.* The 
first kind of anger visits us in love, of which it is the off- 
spring J but the second is fostered and concealed under 
a dissimulation that should inspire us with terror. It 
is not, therefore, when I do not feel Thy wrath, but 
when I groan beneath its weight, that I ought to be 
most confident of Thy favour ; for " when Thou art 
angry Thou wilt remember mercy." " Thou wast a 
merciful God to them," said the Psalmist, " and taking 
vengeance on all their inventions." He is speaking of 
Moses, and Aaron, and Samuel, whose names he had 
just mentioned. And notice how he calls it a mercy 
that God did not spare them for their transgressions. 
And wilt thou, my brother, put away from thee for 
ever this mercy, by attempting to justify thy sin and 
resenting correction ? Is not that the same as calling 
evil good and good evil ? Will not this detestable 
impudence gradually lead to impenitence, the mother 
of despair ? For how can one repent of that which 
he believes to be good ? The Prophet denounces woe 
against them who thus confound good with evil. And 
that woe is eternal. There is a great difference between 

* This sounds like an echo of St. Augustine's celebrated petition, 
" Hie caedo, hie ure, ut in aeternum parcas." — (Translator.) 

I. 2 H 



482 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

him who is " tempted by his own concupiscence, being 
drawn away and allured," and the man who, of his own 
will and choice, pursues evil as good, and in a state of 
fatal security, hastens to death as if he were going to 
life. In the case of persons of the latter class, I confess 
that I sometimes could have wished I had dissembled 
and kept silence about the faults I observed them com- 
mitting, instead of administering correction which they 
have made the occasion of such utter ruin. 

You will tell me, perhaps, that I have the merit of 
ray good action, even though it has failed to benefit 
the transgressor ; that by discharging my duty I have 
delivered, at least, my own soul from sin ; that " I am 
innocent of the blood of this man," whom I have warned 
and exhorted, that he might turn aside from his evil 
ways and live. But no matter how you multiply such 
motives for comfort, I refuse to be consoled whilst I see 
my child dying before my very eyes. As if forsooth 
I sought my own deliverance in that reprehension and 
not rather his ! What mother could restrain her tears 
even though conscious that she had spared no pains or 
tiouble to save her infant, if, nevertheless, she now sees 
herself defeated, and all her efforts unavailing, and the 
little one already at the point of death ? And if her 
tears are allowed to flow unchecked for the loss of a 
temporal life, surely I may give myself up to " lamen- 
tation and great mourning " over the eternal death 
of a son, even though my conscience can reproach me 
with no negligence in his regard. On the other hand, 
you see, my brethren, from how much misery that 
religious saves both himself and his superior, who, 
when reprimanded, answers with meekness, confesses 
with humility, submits with patience, and obeys with 



ON SUBMISSION TO CORRECTION 483 

modest simplicity. To one like this, I acknowledge 
myself a debtor in everything. I am willing to be the 
servant and slave of such a soul, as of my Lord's most 
worthy Spouse, who can say with all truth, " While 
the King was at His repose, my spikenard sent forth 
the odour thereof." 

Humility, my brethren, exhales a good odour, which, 
ascending up from this valley of tears, spreads itself 
around in every direction, and even perfumes the royal 
bedchamber with its sweet fragrance. Now, spikenard is 
a lowly plant ; moreover, they who make it their business 
to study carefully the virtues and properties of herbs, 
declare it to be of a warm nature. Therefore it seems 
to me that it can be taken here very fittingly as sym- 
bolising the virtue of humility, but only that humility 
which is heated with the fervour of holy love. The 
reason of this distinction is that there is a humility 
which truth begets in us, and which is without warmth ; 
and a humility which is produced and inflamed by 
charity. The former is resident in the intellect ; the 
latter has its seat in the affections of the will. Thus, 
if a man considers himself interiorly by the light of 
truth, without any dissimulation, and pronounces upon 
himself an unbiassed judgment, I have no doubt he 
will be humbled, even in his own eyes, and lowered in 
his own estimation, although he may not yet be willing 
to lose the esteem of others. He will consequently 
have humility, but so far only as the effect of truth, 
not from the infusion of charity. For were he not 
merely enlightened by the splendour of that truth which 
gives him a real and salutary knowledge of himself, 
but also possessed with the love of it, he doubtless 
would desire, as far as is proper, that others should 
1. 2 H* 



484 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

have the same opinion of him which he has himself 
and which he knows in his heart to be the truth. I 
say advisedly, as far as is proper, because, generally 
speaking, it is not expedient that others know as much 
about us as we know ourselves. Both the love of 
truth and the truth of love forbid us to desire the pub- 
lication of facts the knowledge of which would injure 
our neighbour. On the other hand, he who, from 
purely selfish motives, keeps locked up in his own mind 
the verdict of truth upon himself, makes it plain to 
all how little he loves the truth, since he is thus ready 
to sacrifice it to personal honour or temporal gain. 

You observe then, my brethren, that a man may 
have a really humble opinion of himself, and yet be 
unwilling to " consent to the humble," as the Apostle 
says. For these two things are quite distinct ; the 
former coming from the light of truth, the latter from 
the grace of charity. The former results by necessity, 
the latter is the production of free-will. Of the Saviour 
we are told that " He emptied Himself, taking the 
form of a servant," and giving us the form and pattern 
of humility. " He emptied Himself " as " He humbled 
Himself," not by any necessity of truth and judgment, 
but from charity to us. He had the power to exhibit 
Himself as vile and contemptible, but He certainly 
could not so repute Himself, since He knew Himself 
as He truly was. His humility therefore had its 
source in His Will, not in His Intellect. He made 
Himself appear other than He recognised Himself to 
be, freely choosing to be esteemed the least, whilst 
fully conscious that He was the greatest. Then He 
tells us, " Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble 
of heart." Notice how He says "humble of heart," 



ON SUBMISSION TO CORRECTION 485 

that is, " humble in the affection of My Heart and by 
the choice of My Will." So He denies the necessity 
of His humility, by ascribing it to His Will. For in 
this He was not like you and me, who find ourselves 
in very truth deserving of contempt and dishonour, 
worthy of all abasement and subjection, worthy even 
of severe chastisement and hard stripes. Yet He sub- 
mitted to all these things, " because it was His own 
will," and because He was "humble of heart." That 
is to say, He was humble with that humility which is 
embraced with the heart's affection, not with that 
which results of necessity from the knowledge of the 
truth.* 

It is for this reason, my brethren, I said a while ago 
that this kind of voluntary humility is produced in our 
souls, not by the constraining evidence of truth, but 
rather by the infusion of love, because it belongs to 
the heart, to the will, and to the affections. Whether 
I am right in assigning it to such a source, I leave it 
to you to judge. It is also for you to consider and 
decide whether I have correctly attributed the same 
kind of humility to the Saviour, Who, as is certain, 

* In his treatise De gradibus hiimilitatis, St. Bernard defines 
humility as the virtue which gives a man a clear knowledge 
and a contempt of his baseness (" virtus qua quis, verissima 
sui cognitione, sibi ipse vilescit "). Now, it is clear that such 
a virtue, implying imperfection, can have no place in Christ 
as He is God. As Man, He could (and therefore did) possess 
humility both of intellect and of will, for even though, so re- 
garded, He was the noblest of creatures, He was still but a 
creature, and as such infinitely inferior to the Creator. But 
in comparison with other men — and this is the case our Saint 
seems to be considering — Christ could, indeed, and did exercise 
humility of the will, by submitting to indignities He did not 
deserve, yet He certainly was incapable of intellectual humility, 
knowing Himself to be " Lord and Master," and, by natural 
right, the Only Sinless. — (Translator.) 



486 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

"emptied Himself" through charity ; through charity 
made Himself " a little less than the angels"; through 
charity was subject to His parents; through charity 
stooped to receive baptism at the hands of John ; 
through charity submitted to the infirmities of the 
flesh ; and finally, it was through charity that He became 
obedient unto death, even unto the shameful death of 
the cross. Another question awaiting your determina- 
tion is whether I am right in supposing that this 
humility, all aglow with the fervour of charity, is here 
typified by spikenard, an herb whose nature is said to 
be as warm as its appearance is contemptible. And if 
you agree with me in all these questions (as indeed you 
cannot help doing, since you cannot withhold assent 
from evidence so clear) then if you feel humbled in your 
own consciences with that constrained humility, which 
truth, which " searcheth the heart and the reins," pro- 
duces in the mind of a reflective soul, exert your wills 
and make a virtue of necessity ; because there can be 
no virtue without the concurrence of the will. You 
will do this by not desiring to appear to others different 
from what you appear interiorly to your own hearts. 
Otherwise you have good reason to fear lest what you 
read in the Psalmist should apply to yourselves : " For 
in His sight he hath done deceitfully, that his iniquity 
may be found unto hatred," and in Proverbs, " Diverse 
weights and diverse measures, both are abominable 
before God." For does not he, who wishes to appear 
better than he knows himself to be, incur the guilt of 
" doing deceitfully " and using " diverse weights and 
diverse measures " ? He depreciates himself in the 
secret chamber of his own judgment, having weighed 
his worth in the scales of truth ; yet exteriorly he pre- 



ON SUBMISSION TO CORRECTION 487 

tends to be of higher value, and sells himself as pos- 
sessing greater weight than he finds registered in the 
balance of conscience. Fear the All-seeing Judge, my 
brethren, and never be guilty of so wicked a crime as 
to lift yourselves up with your wills whilst you feel 
yourselves being pressed down by truth. For thai: 
would be sinning against the light. It would be re- 
sisting God. Rather acquiesce in the divine judg- 
ment, and subject your wills to reason, and that not 
only with docility, but even with devotion. Say to 
yourselves with the Psalmist, " Shall not my soul be 
subject to God ? " 

But it is not enough to be subject to God, unless you 
are willing to "be subject to every human creature 
for God's sake, whether it be to " the abbot, " as ex- 
celling," or to the prior, as appointed by him. I will go 
further and exhort you to be subject to your equals, yea, 
even to your inferiors ; " for so it becometh us to fulfil 
all justice." Do thou, then, my brother , if thou desirest 
to be perfect in justice, " with honour prevent " him 
that is less, defer to thy inferiors, place thyself beneath 
thy juniors. By acting thus, thou also wilt deserve 
to say with the Spouse, " My spikenard sent forth the 
odour thereof." For thy devotion is a good odour, a good 
odour, too, is thy fair fame, which reaches and edifies 
all, so that in every place thou art " the good odour 
of Christ," regarded by all with love and veneration. 
He who is humble, not in the free affection of his will, 
but merely as the effect of the compelling power of 
truth, cannot exercise the same influence. Such a one 
keeps his humility altogether to himself ; he does not 
suffer it to escape that it may spread itself abroad and 
perfume his surroundings. In fact, it would be better 



488 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

to say that humility of this kind has no odour, because 
it has no charity or devotion, as being the product of 
necessity rather that the result of willing choice. But 
the humility of the Spouse (which alone is symbolised 
by spikenard) glowing with charity, enlivened with de- 
votion, redolent of good fame, scatters its fragrance on 
every side. It has the properties of voluntariness, 
constancy, and fertility, and its odour can be extin- 
guished by neither praise nor blame. The Spouse has 
heard from her Bridegroom the eulogy, " Thy cheeks are 
beautiful as the turtle dove's " ; she has also received 
a promise of ornaments of gold ; and nevertheless she 
answers with humility. And the more she is honoured 
and praised, the more does she humble herself in all 
things. She does not glory in her merits ; nor does 
she forget her lowliness whilst she hears herself com- 
mended, but rather humbly proclaims it under the 
symbol of spikenard. It is indeed as if she spoke 
in the words of the Virgin Mary, " I am conscious to 
myself of nothing that could deserve so great a con- 
descension, beyond the fact that the Lord ' hatri re- 
garded the humility of His handmaid.' " For what else 
can be the meaning of the words, " my spikenard sent 
forth the odour thereof," if not " my humility has 
been pleasing to God " ? As if she should say, "It is 
not by the merit of wisdom I have won the divine 
favour, nor by the nobility of blood, nor yet by beauty 
of person, for I make no pretension to such advantages ; 
it is simply because my humility, the sole good quality 
I can claim to possess, ' sent forth the odour thereof.' " 
That is to say, its usual, characteristic odour. For it 
is usual with humility to be acceptable to God ; as it 
is usual with Him, and, as it were, His custom, to look 



ON SUBMISSION TO CORRECTION 489 

down with favour upon the humble from His " high and 
elevated throne." And therefore, " while the King was 
at His repose," the odour of humility penetrated even to 
His bedchamber. " Who is as the Lord our God," cries 
out the Psalmist, " Who dwelleth on high, and looketh 
down on the low things in heaven and in earth ? " 
Therefore, " while the King was at His repose," the 
spikenard of His Spouse gave forth its odour. The 
King takes His repose on the Bosom of His Father, 
because the Son is always in the Father. And doubt 
not, my brethren, that He will show Himself a gracious 
Monarch, since He reposes everlastingly on the bed, 
so to speak, of the Father's benignity. It is only 
natural that the cry of the humble should mount up 
to Him Whose home is in the very Well-Spring of 
piety, to Whom sweetness is essential, to Whom good- 
ness is substantial, or rather, consubstantial, Whose 
whole Being is so wholly from the Father, that trembling 
humility need suspect in His royal Majesty the presence 
of nothing that is not paternal. Besides, we have the 
pledge, " By reason of the misery of the needy, and 
the groans of the poor, now will I arise, saith the Lord." 
The Spouse, consequently, well aware of this promise, 
as being one of His household and especially beloved, 
has no fears of being excluded from her Bridegroom's 
favour on account of her poverty of merit, because she 
places all her hope in her humility. But as she is 
still mindful of His sharp reproof, she does not now 
venture to call Him her Bridegroom or her Beloved, 
but less familiarly refers to Him as the King. Never- 
theless, whilst she thus acknowledges the immensity of 
His elevation above her, her humility preserves its 
simple trust. 



490 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

This text, which I have been discussing, is particu- 
larly applicable to the primitive Church. Call to mind 
those days following upon the Ascension of the Lord 
to the place which was His from eternity, where He 
sits in Majesty at the Father's Right Hand, yet, at the 
same time, reposes in tranquillity on that ancient, 
noble, most glorious Couch of His Bosom. Call to 
mind, I say, those days when the disciples were gathered 
together in the upper chamber, " persevering with one 
mind in prayer, with the women, and Mary the Mother 
of Jesus, and with His brethren." Does it not seem 
to you, my brethren, that then especially, the spikenard 
of the young and tremulous Spouse " sent forth the 
odour thereof " ? And when " suddenly there came a 
sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and 
it filled the whole house where they were sitting," 
could not the same Spouse, still tender, weak, and needy, 
say with all confidence, " while the King was at His 
repose, my spikenard sent forth the odour thereof " ? 
It certainly was made clear to all who were present 
in that upper chamber, how pleasing and acceptable 
was the odour sent up by her humility, from the mul- 
titude and magnificence of the gifts wherewith it was 
immediately rewarded. Nor did she prove ungrateful 
for so great a benefit. For hear how, being instantly 
filled with holy love, she prepares to suffer all things 
for the sake of her Divine Benefactor. " A bundle of 
myrrh is my Beloved to me," she exclaims, " He shall 
abide between my breasts." 

My weakness, brethren, which you well know, will 
not suffer me to proceed. So I shall conclude with 
this one remark. The Spouse here declares herself 
ready, for the love of her Bridegroom, to endure the 



ON SUBMISSION TO CORRECTION 491 

bitterness of tribulation, signified by the bundle of 
myrrh. The full exposition of this verse you shall 
have at another time ; on condition, however, that 
by your prayers you obtain for me the light of the 
Holy Ghost. For He alone can enable us to under- 
stand the words of the Spouse, since it was He Who 
inspired them, and made them such as He knew would 
most fittingly express the praises of Him Whose Spirit 
He is, the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus Christ Our 
Lord, Who is over all things, God blessed for ever. 
Amen. 



SERMON XLIII 
On the Remembrance of Christ's Sufferings. 

" A little bundle oj myrrh is my Beloved to me, He shall abide 
between my breasts." 

11 A little bundle of myrrh is my Beloved to me, 
He shall abide between my breasts."* Before she called 
Him " the King," here He is her " Beloved " ; then 
He took His repose on His own royal Couch of the 
Father's Bosom, now He abides between her breasts. 
Oh, how great, my brethren, must be this virtue of 
humility, seeing that it can so easily attract and draw 
down to itself even the Divine Majesty ! How quickly 
the name expressive of reverence has been exchanged 
for the name inspired by love ! With what celerity has 
He drawn nigh, Who a while since was so far remote ! 
" A little bundle of myrrh is my Beloved to me." 
Myrrh, because of its bitterness, is used to denote the 
poignancy and painfulness of tribulation. The Spouse, 
then, foreseeing that she shall be called upon to suffer 
for the sake of her Beloved, speaks these words with a 
feeling of joy ; for she hopes to be able, with His help, 
to endure every trial with fortitude. Hence we read, 

* In the year 1855, when the bones of St. Bernard were 
examined, there was found amongst them a wooden tablet, 
faced with parchment, whereon were inscribed the words, 
" Fasciculus myrrhae dilectus meus mihi, inter ubera mea 
commorabitur." The tablet has a hook attached. The natural 
inference is that it hung in the Saint's cell, and after his death, 
perhaps at his own desire, was laid upon his breast. — (Translator.) 

492 



ON CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS 493 

" They went from the presence of the Council, 
rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer 
reproach for the name of Jesus." And she calls her 
Bridegroom, not a large bundle (jascis) but " a little 
bundle " (fasciculus) to signify that she esteems as 
light and little all labours and afflictions undergone for 
His love. Truly He is but a little bundle, since for 
our sakes He was born as a little Child. He is also a 
little bundle pressing but lightly upon us, because 
"the sufferings of this time," which He requires us to 
endure, " are not worthy to be compared with the 
glory to come, which shall be revealed in us." And 
the Apostle adds, " For that which is at present mo- 
mentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us 
above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory." 
Consequently, He Who is to us now as a little bundle 
of myrrh, on account of the sacrifices demanded by His 
service, shall one day become for us an immensity of 
glory. How could He be anything but a little bundle, 
Whose " yoke is sweet " and " Whose burden is light " ? 
Not that His burden is light in itself — for no light 
thing is the smarting sense *of suffering, no light thing 
is the bitterness of death — but it becomes light to him 
who loves. Hence the Spouse does not say absolutely 
" a little bundle of myrrh is my Beloved," but " a 
little bundle of myrrh is my Beloved to tne" because 
her charity made His burden light. Hence also she 
calls Him her " Beloved," in order to indicate that the 
power of love overcomes the bitterness of all tribulation, 
and that " love is strong as death." And to show that 
she glories not in herself, but in the Lord, and that 
she looks not to her own virtue, but to the help of 
God for constancy under trial, she tells us that He 



494 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

will abide between her breasts. Therefore, in another 
place, she sings to Him with confidence, "Though I 
should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I 
will fear no evils, for Thou art with me." 

In a preceding sermon, as I remember, I interpreted 
these breasts to mean, the one (which I named Con- 
gratulation) a facility for sympathising with joy, the 
other (called Compassion) a readiness to sympathise with 
grief, so that the Spouse might appear as fulfilling the 
injunction of St. Paul, where he says, " Rejoice with 
them that rejoice, weep with them that weep." But 
inasmuch as she is placed between the extremes of 
prosperity and adversity, and (as she is well aware) 
dangers are not wanting on either side, therefore she 
desires to have Him also abiding between these breasts 
of her, so that, protected against every enemy by His 
unceasing help, she may neither be unduly lifted up 
by consolation, not too much cast down by affliction. 
You, my brethren, if you be wise, will imitate her pru- 
dence, and never allow this precious little bundle of 
myrrh to be taken from the centre of your hearts, even 
for the space of a single hour ; but you will keep con- 
stantly before your minds and ponder in assiduous 
meditation all that Christ suffered for you, so that, 
like the Spouse, you also may be able to say, " A bundle 
of myrrh is my Beloved to me, He shall abide between 
my breasts." 

As for me, my brethren, from the very beginning of 
my conversion to God, to make up for all the merits 
which I knew myself to lack, I applied myself with 
diligence to collect together, and to bind into a bundle, 
and to place between my breasts, all the cares and 
sorrows which my Lord had to endure ; in the first 



ON CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS 495 

place the sufferings of His childhood years ; then the 
labours He underwent in preaching, the fatigue of His 
journey ings, His watchings in prayer, His temptations 
and fastings, His tears of compassion, the traps laid 
for Kim in His speech ; and finally, His perils from 
false brethren, the revilings, the spittings, the blows, 
the mockeries, the reproaches, the nails, and all the 
other myrrhic plants, which, as you know, are plenti- 
fully growing for our healing in the evangelical forest. 
But amongst so many twigs of this odoriferous shrub, 
I must not omit to mention that other myrrh which 
He drank on the cross, and that wherewith He was 
embalmed for burial. The first of these signified His 
taking upon Himself the bitterness of my sins ; the 
second was meant as a pledge of the future resurrection 
of my body. As long as I live, I will " publish the 
memory of the abundance of (this) sweetness." Thy 
mercies, O Lord, " I will never forget, for by them 
Thou hast given me life." 

These, my brethren, are the tender mercies which 
holy David in times past implored with tears. " Let 
Thy tender mercies come unto me," he entreats, " and I 
shall live." Other saints, also, of the Old Dispensation, 
sighed for the same, knowing that the " mercies of the 
Lord are many."' How " many kings and prophets have 
desired to see and have not seen " the graces bestowed 
upon us ! They have laboured and we " have entered 
into their labours." I have gathered the myrrh which 
they have planted. For me this little bundle has been 
reserved. No man shall take it away from me, for 
it shall abide between my breasts. I have said to 
myself that wisdom consists in meditating on these 
sufferings of my Saviour. In them I have placed the 



496 ST. BERNARD'S SERMONS 

perfection of justice, the fulness of knowledge, the 
riches of salvation, the abundance of merits. From 
them I sometimes drink a draught of salutary bitter- 
ness, and sometimes, again, I extract therefrom the 
soothing oil of consolation. It is they that support 
me in adversity and sober me in success ; and as I 
journey along the royal but rugged heavenward way, 
amid the joys and sorrows of this mortal life, it is they 
that keep me safe from hurt, defending me against the 
enemies that lurk on every side. They unite me in 
the bonds of loving friendship to the Eternal Judge of 
the universe, by representing to me as meek and humble 
Him in Whose presence the very powers of heaven 
quake with fear, by showing not only as placable, but 
even as imitable, Him Who is inaccessible to the celes- 
tial principalities, and " terrible with the kings of the 
earth." Therefore, as you yourselves can bear witness, 
I have these mysteries of divine suffering often in my 
mouth, and God can bear me witness that they never 
leave my heart. How redolent of the same are all my 
writings, I have no need to mention. And whilst I 
live here below my only philosophy shall be "to know 
Jesus and Him Crucified, " for that is the most sub- 
lime of all. I ask not, like the Spouse, where He lieth 
in the mid-day, since I have the happiness of knowing 
that He allows me to embrace Him, yea, even abides 
between my breasts. Nor need I inquire where He 
feedeth at noon, because I behold Him dying on the 
cross to save me. More sublime is the privilege soli- 
cited by the Spouse, but that bestowed on me has in 
it more of sweetness. What she requires is the bread 
of the strong, whilst I, as a mother, have obtained, not 
bread, but milk, the milk which nourishes the hearts 



ON CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS 497 

of the little ones, which fills and expands the maternal 
breasts. Therefore " He shall abide between my 
breasts." 

I counsel you, also, my dearest brethren, to collect for 
yourselves so sweet a little bundle, to place it in the very 
centre of your hearts, and with it to fortify the en- 
trance thereof against every hostile incursion. So shall 
the Beloved abide between your breasts, as well. Keep 
this precious bundle, not behind or upon your backs, 
but ever before your eyes ; otherwise, whilst you bear 
its burden, you cannot enjoy its fragrance ; you feel 
its weight upon you, but derive no support from its 
perfume. Remember that the bundle is the Beloved 
Himself, Whom Simeon took into his arms, Whom 
Mary bore in her womb, nursed on her lap, and placed 
as a Biidegroom between her breasts ; and, I may 
add, Who came as the Word of the Lord to the 
Prophet Zachary and others. We may also believe that 
Joseph, Mary's husband, often fondled Him upon his 
knee. Consider now that all these kept Him before 
them rather than behind. Do you, the r efore, follow 
their example, and do likewise. For, if you hold before 
your eyes Him Whom you carry as a little bundle of 
myrrh, you surely will not forget all He suffered for 
your sakes ; and the memory of that will make your 
own burdens lighter, through the grace of Him, the 
Bridegroom of the Church, Who is over all things, 
God blessed for ever. Amen. 









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